By Mark Etheridge
in Brazzaville, Congo
Team South Africa’s boxing contingent takes to the ring on Tuesday when their first of five fighters are in action.
First to throw a punch in anger will be the team’s 49kg category contestant Sibusiso Bandla. The 22-year-old East Cape fighter takes on Ghana’s Suleiman Teteh. All the amateur fights will feature three rounds of three minutes each.
Next up will be 2012 Olympian and 2014 Commonwealth Games athlete Ayabonga Sonjica in the 56kg division, also on Tuesday, where the Eastern Cape athlete (picture above) will be up against Uganda’s Nasir Bashir.
Heavyweight action features Limpopo’s Akani Phuzi, the 21-year-old taking on one of Kevin Kecendo (Seychelles) or Kenya’s Ochola Elly Ajuwi.
Then it’s Team South Africa’s 2014 Commonwealth Games team member Paul Schafer in the super heavyweight (+91kg).
And as the luck of the draw has it, Schafer may get the chance to avenge his Commonwealth defeat in Glasgow last year where he went down to Nigeria’s Efe Ajagba of Nigeria.
Witbank’s Schafer has a first round bye and must wait to see if Ajagba gets past Kenya’s Nyambewenya Daniel Shisia.
Explains manager/coach Johan Prinsloo: ‘Paul was unlucky to lose in Glasgow. He lost the first round, won the second and was looking good in the last till a clash of heads saw blood spilt, and the decision was given as a knockout against him.
Ajagba captained the Nigerian boxing team in Glasgow and went on to get bronze.
‘We’ve got some definite medal chances here,’ continued Prinsloo.’In the 49kg we should get through to the semi’s quite easily and the same goes for the 56kg division.
‘In the 91kg division we’ll face Algeria in the semi if we get that far.
‘So far the best boxers here are looking to be from Tunisia and Algeria but I must say that after the first night’s programme the Zone IV countries (we are also part of Zone IV) have definitely stood out, which is a good sign.’
The team’s only female boxer is Bathabile Ziqubu. The 24-year-old KwaZulu-Natal pugilist trades punches in the 51kg division.
‘She’s a good little boxer and can definitely go quite far here,’ says Prinsloo.
Boxing is scheduled to go through till Saturday when the finals will be contested.