Ndou or die - high hopes to become new champ

Published Oct 31, 2003


Phillip Ndou's mother, Margaret, has for a long time now, been lighting candles and saying prayers for her son at her home in the Golgotha suburb of Thohoyandou.

"We are a very religious family and throughout my professional boxing career she's been praying for me and lighting candles. Her doing that gives me strength and opens up doors for me," said Ndou of his mother's solemn vigil yesterday.

What a door has opened for Ndou now.

On Saturday (4am SA time) he will get the chance to take the great Floyd Mayweather's WBC lightweight title from him in the champion's Midwest hometown at what will be a sold-out Van Andel Arena.

His mother isn't the only one wishing Ndou well; the 26-year-old is in the thoughts of millions of South Africans as he challenges a man who, for five years, has been untouchable in his division in the world.

Nelson Mandela invited Ndou to his office for a pre-fight pep talk before his departure for the States, advising him to "keep Mayweather on the outside with the jab, work the body and the head will become available".

In the ring he will wear a patch on his boxing trunks bearing a good luck message from Madiba.

Thabo Mbeki also dropped a note saying he had "full confidence" Ndou would put up a performance to make all South Africans proud and that he would return home with the coveted WBC belt.

So, there're high hopes for the young man from Venda tonight.

When told of his opponent's high level support, Mayweather responded by saying: "Nelson Mandela's a great man, he's big in America, but Mandela can't get in there and fight for him."

No, he can't, but Ndou seems keen on doing that himself and despite the tension and magnitude of the occasion, he insists he can handle himself tonight.

Ndou normally doesn't say much before a fight, but on Firday an "interview" was hardly needed. He opened up to share his strong thoughts, thoughts that reveal a hungry, determined man indeed.

"I'm very relaxed. In fact I've been telling my team they are the ones who need to relax. This means so much to my family and to our people back home. I am not holding back any punches for this one.

"I thank God this fight's finally happening, I've waited a long time for it. They take us lightly here in America. They think they're the best and have no regard for anyone else, but he's fighting something else tonight. I'm going to throw everything I have into. Whatever Mayweather's going to come with in the ring, I'm ready for. I am not here to showcase my skills, I am here to win and become the champion of the world. My time has come."

Minutes after uttering those words, he came face to face with Mayweather, putting up with the humiliating taunts from his opponent's camp that he's "nothing more than a sparring partner" for the champ.

When only their eyebrows separated them as they stared each other down, Ndou hardly flinched. After a flat, quiet start to his pre-fight preparations a few weeks ago, according to his handlers, Ndou stepped up his intensity this week and has been pounding his heavy punches with accuracy and venom.

Mayweather has never been knocked down in his unblemished 30-fight career. One of his biggest strengths is that he "hates losing". Then there are his exceptional skills, speed, power, mobility and defence that put him in a league of his own.

Ndou's a big underdog here, but the beauty of boxing is that it takes just one sweet punch to change the course of history.

And punch is one thing Ndou can certainly do.

"If you've been hit by one of them, you don't want to feel another," said Ndou's friend and stablemate Silence Mabuza last night of his punching power.

Maybe his mum Margaret's prayers will be answered.

What a story it would be.

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