In the background of a phone call with manager Gary Hyde, the sound of rope skipping can be heard. The person skipping rope is Simpiwe Vetyeka, and the gym is Hyde’s Nowhere2Hyde Gym in Cork, Ireland, where Vetyeka was wrapping up training for his first fight of 2017.
Vetyeka (29-3, 17 knockouts) had fallen off the map after losing the WBA featherweight almost title three years ago in his first defense but, to hear Hyde speak, he feels he hit the jackpot by signing him last July.
“The world works in mysterious ways and maybe, if (Vetyeka) still had his title, I wouldn’t have got my hands on him,” said Hyde, who had gained recognition for his work with former client Guillermo Rigondeaux.
“But we’re gonna win the title again before the summer of 2017 and we’re gonna keep it because he’s an amazing talent. He’s got very, very good punching power; he’s got a high IQ. He’s a fantastic guy; his sharpness is there. He’s just a brilliant all-around talent. I’m really, really excited.”
Vetyeka, who just turned 36 in December, will start up his career again when he’ll face unbeaten Hungarian David Berna (8-0, 8 KOs) in a 10-rounder at Complexe Sportif Mohammed V in Casablanca, Morocco, on Feb. 18. The card is being promoted by Hyde.
The card will also feature the pro debut of Mohammed Rabii, another Hyde fighter and a welterweight bronze medalist from the 2016 Olympics, representing Morocco. Rabii will face 34-fight veteran Adam Mate in a six-round fight.
“I honestly think he is the biggest signing out of the Rio Olympics. Forget the controversy of Mick Conlan; that’s all well and fine but this guy is a fighting man,” said Hyde.
“That is a very bold statement to make but I know in my heart and soul that this guy is gonna be a world champion by the Tokyo Olympics (in 2020).”
The period from when Vetyeka won the WBA featherweight title in 2013, ending the decade-long reign of Chris John and sending him into retirement after six rounds, and when he lost the title via an inconclusive technical decision to Nonito Donaire Jr., spanned nearly six months.
But, in boxing time, it went by in an instant. The manner in which Vetyeka lost the belt, when referee Luis Pabon sounded the bell to begin the fifth round and then stopped it a second later to go to the scorecards due to a cut on Donaire’s eye, shouldn’t have kept him out of the title picture for too long.
He was promised a rematch after the fight, words which gave Vetyeka little solace, while he fought infrequently on small shows back in his home country of South Africa.
“I was promised a rematch with Donaire and (Top Rank Promotions CEO) Bob Arum because they know exactly that Donaire stole my title,” said Vetyeka. “I think Donaire was afraid to fight me again.”
His relevance waned by the day and Vetyeka split with promoter Andile Sidinile, who told the Daily Dispatch they split because he couldn’t meet Vetyeka’s demands.
“(It was) because of inactivity and I was not sure if (Sidinile) has future plans for me,” said Vetyeka, who fought just three times since the Donaire fight. “I knew I have to get a new team.”
Now signed with Hyde, Vetyeka had spent the last six weeks in Ireland training with Donald Leary – a longtime Robert Garcia assistant – and will try to jump back into the title picture with a current WBA ranking of No. 4 and a No. 6 rating with the WBC.
Vetyeka says WBA titleholder Leo Santa Cruz and WBO titleholder Oscar Valdez are “always on my mind,” and Hyde says he expects Vetyeka to be named the WBA mandatory the next time mandatories are announced.
Hyde is excited. And, for the first time in a while, Vetyeka has something to be excited about too.
Ryan Songalia is the sports editor of Rappler, a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and a contributor to THE RING magazine. He can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @RyanSongalia.
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