Promoter Sifiso Shongwe has clarified ESPN Africa’s intention with boxing throughout the African continent.
There was a growing concern and questions had already been asked by some promoters in other African states about the focus that has been placed on SA when the US network owned jointly by ESPN and The Walt Disney Company announced early this year that the intention was to uplift boxing in Africa.
“We, ESPN Africa, have interest throughout Africa,” insisted Shongwe without going into details yesterday. “We also saw the need to go to East London, which is known for its massive contribution in making sure that the world respects Africa due to the quality world champions produced in that province.”
Shongwe promotes under The Walt Disney Company Africa whose two previous tournaments in Johannesburg were televised live by ESPN Africa to the world through DStv, Azam and Media Max (throughout East Africa), Mauritius Telekom and Oya Watch (Nigeria).
Their first tournament was held on January 27. The third is scheduled for March 24 at EFC Institute Performance Centre, Fourways. Topping that bill will be the fight for the vacant female IBF Continental junior-welterweight title between SA champion Hedda “The Shredder” Wolmarans and Ruth Chisale from Malawi.
The tournament, which also features a grudge fight between Akani “Prime” Phuzi and Lebo Mashitoa over 10 rounds in the cruiserweight division, is subject to BSA approval. Phuzi will make his debut under new trainer Damien Durandt after parting ways with Alan Toweel Junior.
Mashitoa, whose trainer Lionel Hunter passed away in 2020, is now under the guidance of Anton Nel.
“Based on the distribution of our affiliates, there may be a need to stay relevant by staging tournaments where our affiliates are,” said Shongwe. The 34-year-old Velasco (23-2, 14 KOs) enters this fight on a three-bout winning streak, having most recently earned a split decision victory over Zachary Ochoa in February 2021. A native of Jujuy, Argentina, Velasco has tangled with some of the toughest fighters in the 140-pound division, including former champions Mario Barrios and Regis Prograis. Velasco will fight in the U.S. for the fifth time on March 26.
“I’m very honored to be on a great card like this,” said Velasco. “This is actually the second time that I’ve been preparing to face Rodríguez, so I know what I’m up against. He’s going to come into the right at 100%, just like I will. May the best man win on March 26.”