Exciting times for boxer Manyuchi
By Michael Madyira
Charles Manyuchi’s journey back home from Italy last week, following a second defence of his World Boxing Council (WBC) International welterweight bronze category belt was an eventful one.
From his hotel base in the Italian commune of Sequals right to Harare, Manyuch brought business to a standstill everywhere he passed through.
The Italians scampered for autographs and pictures despite Manyuchi having destroyed their own Gianluca Frezza two days earlier.
As the Italians fervently celebrated Manyuchi, the situation almost became unmanageable at Venice Marco Polo International Airport last Tuesday as people fought to touch or at least get a glimpse of the 25-year-old Masvingo-born pugilist.
But it was on the flight from Venice to Abhu Dhabi, on the way to Lusaka, where it turned rapturous after the flight captain announced to the passengers that Manyuchi was on the plane. The announcement triggered a standing ovation from excited passengers.
“I was surprised and wondered how the captain got to know that I was on the plane and that I was the champion. Imagine everyone in the plane clapping hands for you. I was touched,” said Manyuchi.
It did not end there.
On the flight from Abhu Dhabi to Johannesburg, he was presented with a bottle of champagne as a memento to recognise his exploits.
On touching down at Lusaka’s Levy Mwanawasa International Airport in Zambia, where his handlers, Oriental Quarries Boxing Promotions are based, a massive crowd awaited him.
They deliriously cheered, sang and danced, toasting to their hero’s latest feat. Oriental Quarries Boxing Promotions operations director Chris Malunga said Manyuchi “almost cried because he could not believe the crowd he was witnessing”.
The crowd included airport staff, confirming beyond doubt that the boxer has literally become a demigod in Zambia where he has a huge following.
And then on Wednesday at Harare International Airport when he finally landed home, another big crowd was there to welcome him.
Then the following day, his dream came true after finally meeting President Robert Mugabe.
But it was Mugabe’s Zambian counterpart Edgar Lungu who accorded him the first recognition.
A few minutes before clashing with Frezza, Lungu sent Manyuchi a message, wishing him the best.
“I told him [Manyuchi] that if our President can send you a message, then you are on another level,” said Malunga.
Arriving in Sequals on July 12, he had five days to acclamitise to the humid conditions of the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region. Training included five kilometre jogging in the mountains.
On the day of the match, a paltry fan base of less than 10 UK-based Zimbabweans was backing Manyuchi against an intimidating crowd of thousands of people rooting for Frezza.
“The weather was against us but the first technical approach to the match was to make sure that Charles injected fear into the opponent,” said Malunga.
“How do you instill fear into your opponent? The strategy was to hit Frezza extremely hard with the first two punches. They [Italians] had the confidence that they were going to take this title but Charles controlled the fight from round one.”
His coach Mike “Weaver” Zulu ceaselessly roared instructions to Manyuchi to deliver hard punches and it paid dividends as Frezza failed to contain the ferocious punches. He threw in the towel in the sixth round.
But the fight was not all rosy for Manyuchi. He emerged from the ring with a twisted right wrist.
“It was a tough fight but I knew I would win it. There is no way I could have travelled thousands of kilometres to lose. The way I trained was more than enough for me to do well. I had a lot of confidence which is what is important in boxing,” said Manyuchi.
Now two years under Oriental Quarries Boxing Promotions, Manyuchi is the only boxer from that stable to have claimed a WBC title. Malunga is now eyeing the 53rd WBC annual Convention in November to negotiate for Manyuchi, a bout with British pugilist Amir Khan for a silver belt of the welterweight division.
“I am ready for anyone. Khan is my next target,” said Manyuchi.
His coach Zulu has trained some of Zambia’s great boxers including Pythius Kambembe, Charles Chisamba and Joseph Chingango and feels the Zimbabwean is now ripe for the silver stage of the WBC welterweight title.
“Yes, he can beat Khan. That is the confidence we have in him. He also believes in himself and that is why everyone does not doubt what he can do,” said Zulu. The Standard