If Simphiwe Khonco surprises world strawweight champion Chayaphon Moonsri in Thailand on Friday afternoon‚ he will be only the third South African to lift a prestigious WBC crown.
And if victorious, he would be the least experienced of the trio by some distance.
Khonco has a modest record of 19 wins and five losses compared with Moonsri’s flawless 53-0‚ and it also falls short of the records of his two WBC-holding countrymen‚ Sugar Boy Malinga and Dingaan Thobela.
Of the four main sanctioning bodies‚ which include the WBA‚ IBF and WBO‚ SA has enjoyed the least success with the WBC.
Malinga won the WBC super-middleweight title twice in the last millennium and Thobela lifted the same belt once in 2000.
Malinga’s record was 40-9 when he stepped into the ring to stun English superstar Nigel Benn in Newcastle in 1996‚ and it was 41-10 when he took on Robin Reid in London in 1997.
Thobela had 39 victories‚ seven defeats and two draws when he challenged Englishman Glenn Catley at Carnival City in 2000.
That fight was only the second time a South African boxer had fought for a WBC belt on home soil.
The other occasion was in 1973 when Pierre Fourie took on American light-heavyweight legend Bob Foster‚ holder of the WBC and WBA titles‚ at the time the only two organisations around.
But Khonco does have something in common with one of SA’s two champions — at 33 he is the same age Thobela was when he ascended the WBC throne.
In total 17 SA boxers have challenged for WBC belts‚ but 15 have failed‚ starting with welterweight Willie Ludick against Curtis Cokes‚ also a unified champion‚ in 1968.
Khonco certainly is not SA’s most inexperienced WBC challenger either. In fact‚ nine had fewer than Khonco’s 24 fights.
Mzonke Fana‚ with a 22-2 record‚ had the same number. Giovanni Pretorius was 22-0-1‚ Monelisi Myekeni was 21-2‚ Vusi Malinga 18-2-1‚ Evans Mbamba 17-0‚ Simpiwe Vetyeka 16-0‚ Andre Thysse 14-2‚ Gideon Buthelezi 12-2‚ Mzukisi Marali 11-2‚ and Morgan Ndumo 10-2-1.
Ndumo is the only one to have fought for the same title Khonco is bidding for‚ but he was stopped in the sixth round by then strawweight kingpin Ricardo Lopez‚ who was unbeaten in 43 fights at the time in 1996.
SA’s failed WBC challengers with more experience are Ludick (28-2)‚ Phillip Ndou (31-1)‚ Frans Botha (40-2-1)‚ Corrie Sanders (39-2) and Fourie (43-1-1 and 44-2-1).
Thobela is actually the most experienced of SA’s failed challengers‚ having a record of 40-8-2 when he lost by stoppage against Canadian Eric Lucas in 2001.
Altogether 17 South Africans have engaged in 23 WBC title fights.
The three victories were all challenges; neither Malinga nor Thobela successfully defended a WBC belt. So does Khonco have a chance?
His camp is confident. “Feeling great‚ we’re ready‚” trainer-manager Colin Nathan said from Thailand after Thursday’s weigh-in.
Both challenger and champion made the 47.63kg limit.