Back in 1996, Sugar Boy Malinga took on the Dark Destroyer Nigel Benn in Newcastle and came away with the Londoner’s WBC super-middleweight belt. This Saturday, at Leeds' First Direct Arena, Vusi clashes with Darlington’s Stuart Hall for the vacant IBF world bantamweight crown, and after two previous failed attempts at world honours, the 34-year-old has revealed how vital victory is to him.
“It’s very important that I win,” said Vusi ahead of the contest. “I have to win this fight for my father, my family and for everyone back in South Africa.
“He’s a come-forward fighter, who throws lots of punches. I’m expecting a tough fight; if he comes to fight then I’ll fight him and if he boxes then I’ll box.
“Any type of fight, I’m prepared for him. It’s all about mind-sets, my mind is well and I’m prepared for everything.”
Malinga’s two earlier shots at the world title both came away from home. In 2009, he fought in Japan against Hozumi Hasegawa for the WBC crown but was knocked out in a round. Three years later in America, the Guateng native came unstuck against big-hitting Mexican Leo Santa Cruz, losing on points.
With a full house expected in Leeds and the vast majority of support certain to be in Hall’s favour, Malinga is confident he won’t be affected by the cauldron of noise. The wily veteran, with just four defeats in 26 fights, believes his greater ring-knowledge will come into play and that his previous travels will stand him in good stead for the win.
“It won’t affect me at all,” explained Vusi about boxing on away turf. “I’m used to fighting in other countries, like Japan and America, so it’s no problem to fight over here.
“I’m very sure I’ll win. I’ve prepared myself well; I’m very fit and I’m very confident that I’m going to take the title away with me.”
The undercard for the December 21st show will include Birmingham’s Frankie Gavin defending his Commonwealth welterweight title; Bradford’s Femi Fehintola versus Dewsbury’s Gary Sykes; Northern Ireland’s Paul McCloskey; Dronfield’s Lewis Taylor; Leeds’ China Clarke and Steven Mennell; Doncaster’s Dave Allen; Cheshunt's Ashley Sexton, and Wales’ Lewis Rees.
Picture by Rob Chambers
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