By Gareth Duncan in Lusaka, Zambia
The South African boxers won five medals at the Zone VI Games on Wednesday, in tough circumstances.
It was a good return from the seven-man national Under-20 boxing squad. They had to persevere through poor judging from inexperienced officials and had to deal with pressure in front of a loud and hostile home crowd.
The points ruling was so bad on day five, that the game plan was changed to win by knockout to avoid unfair rulings. This was after Bangile Nyangani lost on points in the 49kg semi-final against his Lesotho counterpart, despite dominating most moments during the three rounds. The neutrals booed the decision.
Despite this, three South African boxers went on to make finals in their respective weight categories. Sikho Nqothile (49kg) and Roland Malindi (56kg) won their semi-final bouts by knockout, while Lerato Dlamini (60kg) secured his place in the top two of his division on a points tie-breaker.
On Wednesday, Nqothile and Malindi lost their finals against their Botswana and Lesotho counterparts. Both fighters were relegated to silver medals on points.
However, Dlamini shone, to win South Africa’s only boxing gold against a Zambian fighter. He had a well-measured approach ÔÇô retreated at the correct times. was mobile around the ring and landed his punches effectively when on attack. His roundabout punch was the highlight of the bout. He went on to win comfortably on points.
These medals were in addition to Nyangani and 75kg middleweight Fernando Rodriguez’s bronze finishes. Robert Khumalo (69kg) and Richard da Silva (64 kg) failed to advance from the round robin stage.
‘Five medals under these circumstances? I’m very proud,’ said head coach Johan Prinsloo. ‘Our boys boxed really well and there’s some great talent here.
‘I was very disappointed with the judging at the tournament. There was only one qualified judge, while the others are local and inexperienced. But at the end of the day, there was nothing we could do. We just had to fight through it.’
Prinsloo added that Dlamini was the most impressive performer. ‘I expected more of Sikho Nqothile, but he just didn’t pitch in his final. Lerato was definitely the most consistent boxer. All of the athletes will become better boxers because of this international experience.’
Dlamini, who hails from Welkom, Free State, was very proud of his achievement. The 18-year-old hopes it will lead to more success at the World Amateur Boxing Championship next year.
‘This is the first time I’ve represented South Africa on the international stage,’ said Dlamini. ‘I had fantastic preparation before the tournament, and all that hard work has paid off.
‘My next goal is to represent South Africa at the World Champs in 2013. The experience will be good for me and I think I’ll do well at a higher level of competition.’