Capricorn Park based boxer Thembani ‘Baby Jake’ Mbangatha received a standing ovation when he returned back into the SA Police Services last Friday, following a two-week break for a professional fight, in the United Kingdom, last month.
The top-ranked South African featherweight boxer, Mbangatha, lost via a technical knockout decision in the ninth round, against Britain’s Nathaniel Collins, for the Commonwealth title, scheduled for 12 rounds.
“Physically I am good. I am back at the gym again. I am happy to see that people appreciate seeing me back home safe because of the new Covid-19 variant and the concerns over bans with SA and the UK… Just to put my foot on that side was amazing.”
Despite two years out of the ring as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, Mbangatha, 31, acknowledged his opponents’ victory. Although he was never tired throughout the nine rounds, he was, however, psychologically out of the fight.
“It taught me that boxing shouldn’t be a hobby. It is a full-time job. Being a police officer and a professional boxer made me realise I did extremely well. But it is deeper than just fighting. I felt it in my heart that I could do this. It’s little that is needed, just a little support,” he said.
Mbangatha hopes to bounce back to winning ways soon. And, as a way to help him and many other professional boxers from South Africa, he said, ahead of big fights, in particular international fights, local boxing gyms and promoters should put all the fighters into the same camp, to assist them in sparring sessions, becoming mentally stronger and support.
In the UK, he realised he had too much respect for his opponent and he drifted from the goal at hand. His story is similar to Eastern Cape’s Fuzile ‘Golden Boy’ Azinga – who lost via a unanimous decision against Japan’s Kenichi Ogawa, in the USA, last week.
Mbangatha said ex-professional boxers, from South Africa and Africa, have an abundance of knowledge about approaching international bouts that they can share with current professional boxers – to help them to psychologically prepare for international bouts. As it stands, boxing lacks international support from local veterans, the government and investors.
“We need to build more respect for boxers in SA to get respected worldwide. The talent is here but the motivation is missing,” he said.
“I’ve learned a lot. Sometimes you need to motivate yourself before you motivate others. Capricorn Park should lift their heads up. Children from this place are the true champions,” said Mbangatha.
Baby Jake is back at training under trainer, Steven Newton, as he prepares for a shot at the SA title, against either Abdul Aziz-Kunert or Eastern Cape’s undefeated Asanda Gingqi, on February 27, next year.