A NEW stable, a new moniker and a renewed vigour for the sport is what Paulus Ambunda believes will lead him back to the summit of boxing.
Ambunda is no longer 'The Rock' who glittered to three world titles before losing his way last year. Instead, he is now 'El Jesus' and his second coming will start with claiming the WBC International bantamweight title at the expense of Nasibu Ramadhan of Tanzania on 29 December.
“Tell them Jesus is coming!” he quipped when calling on his supporters to fill up The Dome in Swakopmund.
The fight will be Ambunda's second under Salute Boxing Academy whom he joined in August after severing ties with troubled mentor Nestor Tobias with whom he twice reached the pinnacle of boxing in his division.
The ex-WBO and IBO world champion's last fight was at flyweight and ended in a second round stoppage of another Tanzanian in Tasha Mjuaji in September.
Like his compatriot, 25-year-old Ramadhan is hardly a fearsome force on the evidence of a patchy record of 24 wins, nine defeats and two draws.
Ambunda, 12 years Ramadhan's senior, has only lost twice in 27 bouts, with both setbacks coming during world title fights against top class opposition.
“It's going to be a New Year's present for the fans. The nation must expect fireworks. So come in numbers and let's celebrate together,” he said.
With his 40th birthday in sight, he is at a stage when most fighters consider calling it a day but Ambunda has no such intentions just yet. He aspires to be world champion again.
“I am super fit and focused. I believe I am still on point. There is no doubt in my mind.
“Age doesn't matter. I'm hungry for success. I'm hungry to be back on top. I still have two or three years to go.
“I want to regain my titles. Especially the IBO title. But my aim is to fight for the WBC world title,” Ambunda said.
Similarly, Vikapita Meroro is on a mission to rebuild a tainted career after making an about-turn on retiring from the sport following an embarrassing defeat to South Africa's Kevin Lerena in February.
An overweight Meroro (28-6) forfeited his purse money when, after having clung onto his rival for four rounds without offering much offensively, he quit without being in danger in the fifth round.
As expected, a barrage of criticism ensued from all quarters thereafter and the once feared Beastmaster announced his retirement, claiming he had lost his appetite for boxing.
“What happened in South Africa will not happen again. I was unfit and was not there [mentally],” Meroro said.
His return bout is a 10-round non-title bout against Russia's WBA continental cruiserweight champion Maksim Vlasov (40-2) in Moscow on 21 December.
“This is a new Beastmaster. I've been training hard to be in shape and we will go there to win,” he added.
Salute executive chairman Kriata Kamanya appears convinced that the 32-year-old former WBO Africa light heavyweight and cruiserweight titles holder still has plenty to offer.
“I went to training to see for myself. I can tell you he is fit and is ready. He has been working very hard,” Kamanya said.
“If he was not fit, we wouldn't be sending him to Russia because the country's and academy's names are on the line. So we believe he will put up a good show.”
Also in action on the 29 December card are main supporting act Vakufilapo 'Cowboy' Nashivela who faces South Africa's George Mdluli for the vacant WBF Africa title.
The rest of the card is as follows: lightweight - Lazarus Shaningwa v Andreas Nghinaunye; flyweight - Immanuel Josef v George Kandulo (Malawi); catchweight Jonas Matheus v Israel Kamwamba (Malawi); and super bantamweight - Joseph Hilongwa v Tinkhani Kamanga (Malawi).
- Title: Jesus is coming!
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- Date: 5:26 PM