Zimbabwe’s Kudakwashe Chiwandire scored a major upset, winning a 10-round split decision victory over former world champion Catherine Phiri of Zambia in Lusaka Saturday night in a WBC super bantamweight title eliminator.
Chiwandire is now set to challenge WBC super-bantamweight champion Yemileth Mercado of Mexico.
The 26-year-old Chiwandire (5-2-1, 4 KOs) was in the driver’s seat for the better part of the bout, taking the fight to a Phiri (16-5, 10 K0s) who looked somewhat rusty coming off a two-year absence in the ring where she joined the Zambia Air Force, and became a commissioned officer.
Phiri, 35, hadn’t fought since March 2019, when she lost via unanimous decision to then WBC world super bantamweight champion Fatuma Zarika in Zarika’s native Kenya. She was a decided favorite over the unheralded Chiwandire, who made up for her inexperience with dogged determination.
“I said before the fight that l’m ready to die in the ring to make sure l beat Phiri. I’ve proved wrong the skeptics who said l can’t beat her,” said a buoyant Chiwandire.
“She’s an expired boxer. Let her quit boxing and concentrate on her new job in the Air Force but l have a lot of respect for her as a former world champion. I thank my coach Clyde (Musonda) for guiding me well in the fight. I followed his game plan. I’m now looking forward to my world title fight with the Mexican boxer (Yemileth Mercado). I will watch her videos with my coach and then train on how to beat her.”
Chiwandire won the nod of the Kenyan and South African judges who both scored it 98-92 in her favor while a Zambian judge scored it 96-94 for Phiri.
The questionable scoring by the Zambian judge did not sit well with Chiwandire’s coach Clyde Musonda, the owner of Delta Force Promotions.
“My boxer dominated the fight from the first to the tenth round, it’s a big shame for Africa to have such biased judges favoring the home boxer,” said a furious Musonda, himself a former Zimbabwean international boxer.
“During our pre-fight meeting, the Zambian judge was advised by fight supervisor Houcine Houichi (one of the WBC vice presidents and African Boxing Uion president) to put aside his patriotism and do his job professionally, but we were shocked when he gave Catherine the victory yet everybody watched how the homegirl was beaten hands down.
“l’m so disappointed because it means if all judges were Zambians my boxer would have lost the fight. In the future, the WBC should not involve judges from the countries of the two boxers in action. This should also apply in ABU title fights. We want neutral judges to get genuine champions.”
In the ring, Chiwandire was on top of her game punishing Phiri to the body and never allowing her to get comfortable during the bout.
“I told my boxer to put Catherine under a lot of pressure. Even before the fight l was celebrating because l knew ‘Kuda,’ as call her, would win,” Musonda told BoxingAfrica.com.
“As a former soldier, l knew Catherine had put on more weight during her training for the Air Force job and normally soldiers eat a lot there.
“I knew she had shed weight by not eating much in the days leading up to the fight so she was weak while my boxer was eating and training hard. This means she had more power.”
Chiwandire, well aware that Phiri is a good counter puncher, would feint an attack and then when Phiri responded, she’d swarm her on the inside, working a two-fisted attacked to the head and body.
“l told Kuda to attack with straight punches from a safe distance and then mix her punches when close and then come out,” said Musonda.
Phiri accepted defeat without offering any excuses.
“I congratulate Kuda for defeating me, it was her night. l accept defeat and I’m comfortable with the result,” said Phiri.
Phiri’s coach Chris Malunga also agreed with the decision.
“It was a good action-packed fight. Cathy started well but slowed down after the third round. We have no doubt Chiwandire won the fight and wish her well when she fights for the world title. We will unite as Africa and support her,” said Malunga of Oriental Quarries Boxing Promotions, the promoters of the Lusaka card.