Western Cape junior lightweight champion, Thembani “Baby Jake” Mbangatha is five weeks away from fighting Asanda “Dynamite” Gingqi for the South African junior lightweight voluntary title defence, at the Orient Hall, in East London.
The SAPS officer, from Capricorn Park, became the provincial champion after defeating Bulelani Ngondeka, via points, at the Goodwood Correctional Services, last month.
With his eyes on the South African title, the former featherweight fighter, Mbangatha said he wants to compete on the global stage next.
“The journey has been alright. We took some time to fight in the UK. We came back with a loss. We struggled a bit getting back to the game but we learnt a lot from it. We bounced back with a victory in November last year. This year we had the opportunity to compete in a different division — for the Western Province junior lightweight title. Winning that belt enabled us to compete for the South African title,” he said.
Mbangatha said, if he woke up tomorrow morning to fight his opponent, his response would be, “let’s go!”.
“The preparations are going really well so far. We are cruising for five weeks in camp. The camp is quite stable. I am under Brice Boxing Academy and I work hand-in-hand with the former junior lightweight SA champion and undisputed champion, Mzonke Fana. He has all the tools to prepare me for the fight. To have him in my corner is important. Under Brice we have at least half of the Western Cape champions so we get enough sparring,” he said.
With the community of Capricorn Park and Khayelitsha rooting for Baby Jake, the provincial lightweight champion is amped about the turnout they are expecting at the Orient Hall on Saturday December 16.
“The community is happy. The support I get from the community is exciting, especially for this upcoming fight. I get people calling from Capricorn Park, Pollsmoor Correctional Services and as far as kwaQumbu and East London, asking about reservations for the fight,” he said.
Mbangatha won 13 out of 14 fights, six of which came via knockouts. His defeat was against Nathaniel Collins, in Bolton, UK, last year.
“Taking from lessons learnt in my previous fights is that ‘you should never respect the person you are fighting against’. Yes, have respect for the person as a human being but inside the ring I am not coming with respect. I am a champion and against Asanda Gingqi I will be there to take the title,” he said.
“Balancing work and professional boxing is not easy. At some point it may have a negative impact at work, especially when you are in a deep camp and then they make all the sacrifices to allow you to fight and you come back with the excuse that a fight has been postponed or cancelled.
“Things like that make life even more difficult for us as boxers to compete. Sometimes you will find that it is hard to make weight, not because of discipline, but because of the balance between work and sport. I get to impress the trainer and the commander at the same time, and it also needs support from both sides. So they can understand more, in a patriotic way, that this guy is representing the brand and is representing the country,” he said.
Mbangatha said his mission is to compete at an international level and Ginqi is standing in his way.
“I don’t know the fighter as such. I’ve seen his previous fight against Dullah. I think I have enough to take the title. I know he fights and he comes forward, I am not worried about that. His pot is hot and ready for that day,” said Mbangatha.