The on - off - on again saga: Ndou stays switched on!

30.01.04 - By Tony Nobbs: IBF number nine Lt. Welterweight Lovemore ‘Black Panther’ Ndou kept switched on in training over the last few days of out of the ring goings on surrounding his on-off and back on clash with number one rated Sharmba Mitchell at Bally's in Atlantic City next Saturday. After being replaced by number four Omar Weis when the bout was sanctioned for the IBF interim 140 pound title and switched from Las Vegas due to the injury to James Toney, Ndou and his team knew there was a “slight chance” that he will be called back in. With Weis and number three Mike Stewart unable to make weight in time the South African born Sydney contender is in realisation that he could very well be one win away from the all Australian world title showdown with Kostya Tszyu he has been calling out.

As we are all aware, it was Kostya’s shoulder injury that originally caused the post-ponement of his rematch with Mitchell in Moscow and might turn the talent laden division wide open. Mitchell - Ndou was finally confirmed at 5 am Thursday moring, Australian time.

The now 36-5-1,with 22 KO Ndou and trainer Roy Alexander flew out for the States yesterday and over the next week will be joined by a team of 15-20 including Australian manager Stuart Duncan, cutman Dave Hedgecock, IBF number 6 Middleweight Sam Soliman and southpaw gym mate Gary Comer, a recent challenger for the Australian Welterweight title. Eastside was able to catch up with Duncan, a real goer in Australian boxing who expressed confidence in his man being able to spring an upset while acknowledging it will be the hardest fight of Lovemore’s almost eleven year career and the genuine quality of his opponent.

“It’s certainly going to be but I believe he can rise to the occasion and win. He is jumping out of his skin. We are not going to disclose how we are going to fight Sharmba. Sharmba is such a credible opponent and we aren’t going to get into saying any slanderous statements about him or his ability. Lovemore knows this is his chance. There have been a lot of people sitting on the fence as far as Lovemore’s concerned but if he can get past Sharmba he will get to Kostya and that is what makes this so important. He respects Kostya but he genuinely wants to fight the best!”

Ndou’s last start was a five round knockout (body shots) over Carlos Rios in a good fight on December 5 at Penrith Panthers in Sydney. When he first stepped up to fight Mitchell, Ndou pulled out of a fight last Friday at Panthers. His scheduled opponent, another Argentine Luis Sosa was stopped in seven rounds by Noefel Ben Rabah and for a few days it looked like the 32 year old had missed not only a sure win but a fight purse. “Lovemore is such a dedicated fighter he stayed focused. If you notice I have tried to find Lovemore as many southpaw opponents as we could.

When Lovemore beat Damien Fuller, I knew he could give the top ten a shake up. Damien Fuller is a very good boxer and helped secure him as a sparring partner for Kostya while he was preparing for Sharmba” said Duncan who added that Ndou has also been working with the slippery Soliman who recently boxed sixty rounds as a southpaw with Tszyu. Duncan has managed Ndou ever since his loss to Jose Luis Juarez in California on a Foxsport card in April 2002.

It was Ndou’s US debut and a fight he showed plenty of spunk in, getting off the floor in rounds three and nine. Ndou looked like he was OUT in the ninth only to get up and take it Juarez in the tenth and last. In the end it was a majority decision “ After that fight how could I not manage him? It was his first fight for fourteen months and Juarez was such a tough opponent first up”. “If Sharmba thinks he is fighting the ‘Pink’ Panther he is wrong!”

Another vital aspect in Ndou’s final prep will be the group of supporters and training staff with him. “Lovemore is one of these guys who likes it when he has people he knows well around him”. Of his fighters chances if he defeats Mitchell and moves on to Tszyu? “Kostya is a supreme athlete and we have the utmost respect for him in and out of the ring. But it’s like putting kilometres on a car. He has been doing vigorous body work since he was ten years old. He has been out of the ring for so long if Lovemore can beat Sharmba Mitchell he will give Kostya the run of his life”.

Article posted on 30.01.2004

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