Thabiso ‘The Rock’ Mchunu and Thulani Mbenge psyched up for WBC bouts

THABISO ‘The Rock’ Mchunu will face off with Yamil Peralta of Argentina. Photo: Supplied

THABISO ‘The Rock’ Mchunu will face off with Yamil Peralta of Argentina. Photo: Supplied

Published Mar 22, 2024


RETURN to Glory! That is how Sean Smith, the trainer of Thabiso “The Rock” Mchunu and Thulani “Tulz” Mbenge has dubbed their World Boxing Council (WBC) fights taking place in the Olive Convention Centre in Durban this evening.

Mchunu, once the darling of KwaZulu-Natal boxing, will take on Yamil Alberto Peralta from Argentina for the vacant WBC Silver cruiserweight title in the main bout.

Mbenge, who made it clear in the pre-tournament media conference at Moses Mabhida Stadium on Wednesday that his aim is to win via a knockout to advance in the rankings, will be up against another Argentinian in Leandro Fonseca.

That will be a WBC welterweight encounter, which is one of the undercard fights of the eight-bout tournament, which will be televised live on SABC Sport from 5pm today.

Both South African boxers did not have a single fight last year, and Smith says that is no cause for concern as it is normal in boxing and the reason behind the name of the event.

“That’s the nature of the sport. Nobody in the sport of boxing goes without such challenges. But we have seen boxers having been out for a year or so and return with a knockout. I have been with both guys (Thabiso and Thulani) for 10 years. (That is why I can safely say) there’s no real challenges,” said Smith.

“They understand how to get ready. I also understand them well enough – I know when to push (them) and how hard to push, I know when it is time to mentally motivate them and psyche them up.

“They are both great athletes, they’ve had (at least) one or two losses in over a 10-year career.

“May the winning continue, and may this be the door that opens to greater and better things. That’s the goal on (tonight), to re-ignite their careers. I dubbed this tournament ‘Return to Glory’. Hopefully it will be a return to glory for both the boxers, God willing!”

The only challenge for Mchunu, even though Smith does not really see it that way, was the limited sparring he had during his preparations.

“There is nothing different we did in the preparations. They both run every day, and I work in the gym. They both had good sparring,” he said.

“Thulani had over 100 sparring rounds, and not so much with Thabiso, simply because there aren’t that many cruiserweights out there to match his division.

“The positive thing is that we went all the way to now injury-free. He’s probably in his best shape than he has ever been.”

Mchunu (29-23-6, with 13 knockouts) will be looking to reclaim the vacant WBC Silver cruiserweight belt he had won in 2019 against Denis Lebedev from Russia.

The southpaw lost the belt in 2022 in a title defence against bitter rival Ilunga “Junior” Makabu from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“I prepared well. The good thing is that I have been in this position before, so I know how to approach this,” Mchunu said.

“I have seen videos (of Peralta), he’s one of those who fights with their arms hanging down by the side. Not to call him a spoiler, per se, but he punches and runs – but that won’t work for him because I am quicker than anyone in the division, and I believe I am smarter than him.”

What makes Mchunu’s fight against Peralta even more interesting is that the 35-year-old South African is ranked third by the WBC, while his 32-year-old opponent, with a record of 16-1-0 (with eight knockouts) is ranked fourth.

Mbenge, on the other hand, is all about rankings.

“It is tough (getting fights) without a promoter, but I always carry an element of surprise because I have got the power, endurance and stamina to take down anyone in the world,” said Mbenge.

“My target is to get back to top 10 in the world. Since my status currently is ‘inactive’, I must knock this boy out to get back to be ranked 10th in the world.

“The target is to get a good ranking to be able to get quality opponents. Many belts are vacant these days, because the new trend now is who is fighting who, instead of which belt or title you’re fighting for.”

THULANI Mbenge squares off with Leandro Fonseca. Photo: Supplied

The event is presented by Mvelo Boxing Promotion, in partnership with the KZN Department of Sports and Recreation, Durban Tourism and SABC Sport.

* Tickets are still on sale at Webtickets at R100 for adults, with VIP seats going for R1000, while ringside seats will cost R500.

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