Mbenge may weather the welterweight storm ... or not
SA’s IBO champ has yet to run into the likes of Floyd Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao, but he’s looking good
Tulani Mbenge looked impressive as he demolished Diego Chaves to win the vacant IBO welterweight title at Emperors Palace on Saturday. Chaves, 32, is on the wrong side of his career, but the South African did what he was expected to do — dominate!
But now what for Mbenge, who is undefeated in 14 bouts?
Promoter Rodney Berman says he plans to guide his newest champion slowly, hopefully getting him action in the US through Lou DiBella.
Berman knows the 67kg division is brimming with stars. Keith Thurman (the WBA champ and unbeaten in 28 fights), Errol Spence (the IBF champ and unbeaten in 24 fights) and Terence Crawford (the WBO champ and unbeaten in 33 fights) are the pacesetters, and then you’ve still got the likes of Shawn Porter, Danny Garcia and Manny Pacquiao to contend with.Mbenge, who turns 27 next month, is still young enough to be groomed further. The three mainstream champions are all older than he is, ranging from 28 to 30.
But the question is: how far can Mbenge go?
Historically, the odds are not stacked in his favour. South Africa has been light in the welterweight division. Isaac Hlatshwayo briefly held the IBF crown, one of the bona fide titles. And there have been a handful of fighters who have held peripheral titles, like Mbenge’s IBO belt. There have been Gary Murray, Peter Malinga and Jan Bergman, arguably the most gifted of them all. Before them, there were Harold Volbrecht and Willie Ludick.
The other question to look at is how many holders of marginal titles have gone on to bigger belts?
But on this level there has been more success. Zolani Tete, Hekkie Budler, Lehlohonolo Ledwaba and Cassius Baloyi made the transition well, as did Nkosinathi Joyi, Simphiwe Vetyeka, Simphiwe Nongqayi and even Hawk Makepula.
But there are also many who didn’t make the step up. Phillip Ndou was probably unlucky to run into Floyd Mayweather. But, by all accounts, Mbenge will ultimately run into a Mayweather or a Pacquiao — at least a pound-for-pound top-tenner — when he tries to enter the limelight. And that is the fight that will determine his legacy.