Wednesday, October 04, 2023  |



Sivenathi Nontshinga gets tough challenger Regie Suganob for first title defense

September 3, 2022; Hermosillo, Sonora, MX; Hector Flores and Sivenathi Nontshinga during their September 3, 2022 bout at the Centro de Usos Multiples in Hermosillo, Mexico. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland/Matchroom.
Fighters Network

When Sivenathi Nontshinga steps into the ring in front of his hometown fans on Sunday at the International Convention Centre in East London it won’t be a traditional homecoming.

Usually, a champion gets a less threatening foe in his maiden defense. Instead, Nontshinga will be defending his IBF junior flyweight title against his mandatory challenger, undefeated Filipino Regie Suganob. The challenger is coming off a pair of victories over two undefeated fighters, Andika D’Goldenboy and Mark Vicelles.

Unlike many of his countrymen who are awkward, aggressive fighters along the mold of the famous Senator Manny Pacquiao, Suganob is a calculated boxer who commands the center of the ring with his jab. He has a solid left hook to the body and his straight right is crisp, accurate and a thing of beauty. The punch put several foes on the canvas, even though he has only four knockouts in his 13 wins.

“He is not your typical Filipino fighter,” agrees Nontshinga’s manager/trainer, Colin Nathan. “He is a good counter puncher. This is a tricky fight. It will come down to who has the better game plan on the night.”

After a solid amateur career, Nontshinga started his pro career in 2017 trained by his father Thembani Gopheni, who is still part of the team as co-trainer. He was moved fast and in his ninth bout in 2020 was matched with the more experienced Ivan Soriano. He walked through some hard shots which marked up his face but ended up handing his foe the first knockout loss of his career, ending the fight in the fifth round.

Then the pandemic struck, which kept him out of the ring for a year, but he eventually secured an IBF eliminator against the dangerous Christian Araneta in April of 2021. In that fight he turned boxer, moving away from Araneta’s southpaw left, using his jab from the outside to score points. He survived a last round knockdown from a surging Araneta to win a 12-round split decision but instead of a title shot, another 20 months of inactivity followed.

When he finally got his shot in September last year, he had to travel to Hermosillo, Mexico to face undefeated Hector Flores for the title vacated by Felix Alvarado.

He got off to a great start, dropping the Mexican with a right in the second round. As it turned out, he needed that knockdown. Flores came roaring back and dragged the fight into the trenches, hammering away at the South African, who willingly traded. An all-out war ensued that had the fans glued to their seats.

Just as it looked as if Nontshinga was on the verge of falling apart, he dug deep and turned the fight back his way in the championship rounds, prevailing by split decision.

Not only did the 23-year-old set a new South African record for winning a major sanctioning body world title in only 11 professional bouts, but their encounter was also awarded “Fight of the Year” status by the IBF.

That was then, this is now and in boxing you’re only as good as your last fight. Home crowds can often be an advantage, but it can also be a notorious banana skin. Just ask Katie Taylor or Michael Conlan.

Nontshinga-Suganob will be the first major sanctioning body world title fight to be held on South African soil since 2016 when Hekkie Budler lost his WBA strawweight title to Byron Rojas.

Nontshinga however, seems unfazed by the hometown pressure and exudes confidence. “Everything went well, we are now just waiting for the big day to deliver,” says the champion. “People forget that we have the best junior flyweights at Hotbox Gym. I had great sparring with Deejay Kriel, Hekkie Budler and Sikho Nqothole.”

When asked about Suganob, he responds, “I don’t know anything about him except that he is a boxer, and he is good. I respect him but, on the second of July, he will fall short, just like all the others.”

When pushed for a prediction, he is at first hesitant. “We are not going for the knockout, if it comes it comes.” Then he quickly changed his tune. “We are going in with both hands, we are going to set traps. By round five, he’ll be out of there.”

Suganob has undoubted skills, but he has never fought on the road. He has never quite had to go to those dark places in a fight and emerge victorious as the champion has. 

On the other hand, Nontshinga had to be hospitalized briefly after his grueling war with Flores. Will there be lingering effects from that fight? Could the raucous crowd, which will no doubt be at capacity, lead to overconfidence?

We will soon find out.

The tournament is presented by Teris Ntutu and Nomfesane Nyathela of Rumble Africa Promotions.