ZIMBABWE’S boxing superstar Charles Manyuchi is on the cusp of engraving his name in the annals of the country’s sporting greatness if he conquers in tonight’s rumble in Russia, which could take him to the bright lights of Las Vegas or the wonderful Wembley for bigger bouts.BY HENRY MHARA – NEWSDAY
Only the 12-round bout with boxer Dmitry Mikhaylenko at the DIVS Arena in Yekaterinburg city, at 2200hrs local time, stands in Manyuchi’s way to attain greatness and probably a trip to the boxing capital of Las Vegas where he would face some of the best of his welterweight division.
His is a career that just a couple of months ago almost encountered a premature end as Zimbabwe and Zambia fought for rights to ownership of the boxer.
Like the two nations have done with the Zambezi River and Lake Kariba, they finally agreed to share and even though Manyuchi holds his Zimbabwean passport and still stays in Mvuma, Zambia has become his second home.
Like the two neighbouring countries draw life from the mighty Zambezi, they will be hoping to share his glory tonight.
Manyuchi will be looking to make a huge leap in his career with a shot at the vacant World Boxing Council (WBC) Silver Welterweight title, previously held by Amir Khan.
For Manyuchi, whose career hadn’t by any standards been smooth sailing until the start of 2013, when he upset 14-0-1 Malawian Osgood Kayuni to kick off a series of wins over increasingly good opposition, victory tonight would be a direct path to a fight with WBC Welterweight champion Danny Garcia which will open doors to contest for the WBC Gold Welterweight title formerly held by the now retired icon Floyd Mayweather.
Fighting for the WBC Gold Welterweight title has always been the dream for the hard-punching 26-year-old, who will go into this fight with a 17-2-2 record that includes 11 knockouts.
“It’s a dream for all welterweight fighters. We all want to be up there,” Manyuchi told NewsDaySport from Yekaterinburg yesterday, where he has been camped for the last seven days in preparation for the fight.
“I’m ready, I have trained hard to reach this stage, and I’m not looking back. This is a chance I have to seize. I have been here for the past few days to acclimatise and I think it has helped a lot,” he added.
Manyuchi does not believe his opponent’s home supporters will weigh him down, an assertion supported by former Zimbabwe Boxing Control Board secretary-general Gilbert Munetsi.
“Traditionally, it has been difficult for Africans to win abroad because of the crowd and other factors, but recent results from some of our boxers show that trend is changing,” Munetsi said.
“Manyuchi went to Italy and won against a local fighter and we also had Cathrine Phiri winning away in Mexico against a local rival to win a world title. Africans are known to adapt to harsh conditions quickly, so I don’t think Manyuchi will have a problem there,” Munetsi said.
He added: “He has a good chance, but he should try to win by a KO (knockout) because if he prolongs the fight to the cards, he could lose. There is no room for showboating and fighting to the gallery here, he just needs to do a professional job and celebrate later.
“I have seen him fighting and I know he has strong punches with solid power in both hands, so I think it would work best for him if he can attack from the first round and try to knock the guy out. I have seen him doing that in his last 14 fights and I’m sure he will use that strategy.”
In addition to his big punches, Manyuchi has a proven chin too which can take a punch as his two losses came earlier in his career in 2010-09.
After a unanimous decision over Kayuni, Manyuchi who is rated ninth in the WBC, is 7-0, 7KOs, which includes wins over 30-0 world-rated Ghanaian Patrick Allotey and his most recent TKO 6 over 23-2-2 Gianluca Frezza in his first battle outside Africa.
But he will have to be at his best as he is facing an equally dangerous opponent. Mikhaylenko is 21-0.
He is a great pressure fighter with terrific cardio and the ability to throw a ton of punches over the course of a bout.
The 30-year-old simply outworks his opponents and controls the fight by constantly piling pressure.
The only real concern with Mikhaylenko is that he doesn’t have a lot of power, putting pressure on him to win each round due to a lack of knockouts.