at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
Boxing trainer Manny Fernandez is held in high esteem as one of the best technical trainers in the business but it is in the month of March where he will have to prove his mettle when two of his top fighters battle for IBF titles on different continents.
On Saturday night, Fernandez’s charge Kaizer Mabuza will embark on a seemingly mission impossible when he battles against American Zab Judah for the vacant IBF junior welterweight title at Prudential Centre in Newark, New Jersey, US.
This will be the biggest fight involving a South African boxer in a long time due to the esteem in which Judah is held in world boxing circles.
Three weeks later Fernandez will be called into action when his other fighter, Takalani Ndlovu, attempts to exact revenge on Canadian Steve Molitor in an IBF junior featherweight title challenge at Nasrec Arena on March 26.
Judah is a former world welterweight linear champion and also held prestigious crowns in the junior welterweight class.
And with Judah having roped in former legendary boxer Pernell Whitaker into his training camp for the fight, Mabuza has been given absolutely no chance against the American, who has been installed as 3-1 favourite.
But Fernandez is unfazed by the workload of having to plot the downfall of the once brash-talking but recently converted religious Brooklyn-based southpaw.
“Everybody knows Zab Judah so it is not like we will be fighting a closed book,” Fernandez said.
“You can pick any boxing fan and ask him how Zab Judah fights and he will tell you.
“We will go in there and do what we are supposed to do and the beauty of all this is that a fight against a big name opponent like Judah is self-motivating to a fighter.”
Fernandez says Judah is dangerous in the first five rounds but tends to fade as the fight progresses.
“We will need to fight from the very first bell and put pressure on him in order not afford him an opportunity to build an early lead,” Fernandez added.
Indeed Judah built a slight early lead in his last fight against Argentinian Lucas Matthysse last November before running out of steam and being dropped in the late rounds.
However, Fernandez might not be in Mabuza’s corner as he has not secured his visa as yet.
Mabuza, who arrived in America on Sunday, left without Fernandez and there is growing concern that he will walk into the ring without his chief trainer.
But Fernandez will surely be in Ndlovu’s corner when he tries to turn the tables against Molitor (33-1, with 12 knockouts) at Nasrec Arena.
Ndlovu (31-6, 18 via stoppages) lost to Molitor twice in Canada in 2007, and last year with his father Stan in his corner, and Fernandez is confident of devising a fight strategy that will finally let Ndlovu get one over the Canadian.
“Ndlovu is motivated to avenge these defeats at home but I am not sure Molitor is equally motivated as in his mind he already beat Ndlovu twice,” Fernandez explained.
“I think Molitor is only taking this fight because he is forced to and that he will get a big payday but other than that there is nothing burning inside him to win as it is the case with Ndlovu,” the trainer explained. – The Star