EDITORIAL COMMENT: Manyuchi needs our support

Charles Manyuchi

Charles Manyuchi

IT was the night we dreaded would one day come, but even in our wildest nightmares we never imagined that, when it came, it would be in such devastating fashion which would send the entire nation into painful soul-searching.

At the hands of such an opponent, long on potential, but short on experience still battling to find his way in the big league of professional boxing.

Our boxing golden boy, the latest in a generation of very fine boxers who have come out of this country, had for the last couple of years made us believe he was the real deal, the one who would go all the way and become the first Zimbabwean boxer to be crowned world champion.

Talented, tactical disciplined and blessed with both power and the ability to weather a storm, Charles Manyuchi appeared to have everything going for him to take on the best in the world and bring the title back home.

He had gone to Italy and won, defeated a highly-rated Russian in his backyard, with every victory making us believe that, after producing a number of boxers who have won the Commonwealth title, we had now unearthed the gem who could win the world title.

When he told the world media that he was in a different league to Uzbekistan challenger Qudratillo Abduqaxorov, who had only just a dozen matches to his credit and had been taken the full distance in his last fight just a month before their Singapore meeting last Saturday, we had no reason not to believe Manyuchi.

We were confident he would not only beat the challenger, but put on a show that would capture the attention of the world and finally Manyuchi would be given his chance to take a crack at the big boys of the welterweight category in the world like Amir Khan and also fight for the big money, under the bright lights of Las Vegas, which his talent deserved.

But, like all Zimbabweans, our dreams were shattered last Saturday when Manyuchi surrendered his WBC welterweight silver belt after a shock defeat to the Uzbek boxer.

What shocked us wasn’t that our boxer lost, it happens in this game and even the very, very best artists like Muhammad Ali had lost in their careers, but it was the manner that our superstar went down in Singapore — knocked down twice in the first round with the bout ending after just two minutes and 55 seconds.

There was something unusual about Manyuchi on Saturday night.

The way he kept exposing himself to his opponent, giving him no respect at all, when he knew this was a dangerous fighter with the punching power capable of knocking him out with one lucky connection, defied logic.

Of course, we have always known Manyuchi to be an unorthodox fighter, he wants to taunt his opponents and give them the impression that he is in control of the fight, he is not afraid of them, but to do that — in the very first round — against an opponent whose punching power had been talked about in the build-up to the fight, was suicidal.

And, sadly, our golden boy paid a huge price for that.

We blame his camp because, as far as we can analyse Manyuchi’s downfall, they didn’t do their proper homework to confront someone as explosive and dangerous like Abduqaxorov, where the game plan should have been for our boxer to apply a different strategy to his usual approach where he exposes himself to danger.

That is the job of his management team, to spend many hours studying his opponent and finding ways of how to counter him, and they would have realised that exposing a boxer — who has not taken a lot in terms of beating to punches from a man with a reputation to be a power puncher — was the wrong strategy.

We don’t buy the argument that Manyuchi could have thrown this fight, he doesn’t look that kind of athlete, his honour is intact and for a man who has been celebrated as a national sporting hero, he knows there is too much to lose in plunging into that underworld where matches are fixed.

After all, if he had won on Saturday, he would have opened his path to a future when he could fight for millions of dollars and he couldn’t have passed that opportunity by getting, like what some people are saying, just $100 000 to throw that bout.

We agree with Sports and Recreation Minister Makhosini Hlongwane that those who are rushing to judge Manyuchi harshly, and suggesting he could have possibly thrown the fight, are not being fair to a boxer who badly needs our support right now.

We can’t be a nation that only loves winners because, in this game, an athlete can lose and when that happens we should be able to show our sporting ambassadors the same respect and give them love.

Manyuchi can rise again, we know he is a good boxer, he learnt his lessons the hard way, but rather than turn against him, let us show him love so that he can pick himself up from the canvas and fly our national flag proudly again in the future.

After all, he is still young and has a lot of years in his tank.

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