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Ndou vs Ndou - by Pete Moscardi

The vacant IBO welterweight title will be contested on 11 July by two fighters with the same name and who originate from the same area. But there will be no love lost between the unrelated Ndou’s – Lovemore and Phillip – when they enter the ring at the Emperor’s Palace Casino in Kempton Park, Johannesburg to battle it out on this Golden Gloves promotion. If anything, this is a genuine grudge fight, made so by Phillip’s taunting of his ex amateur team captain and his now Australian domiciled opponent. This is a fight that could and should have happened years ago when each was in their prime. But for whatever reason their paths took different
directions.

The fact that promoter Rodney Berman has made this match for the vacant title
has happened by default. When originally announced, it was billed as a final eliminator, with the winner to meet Matthew Hatton (who himself had partaken in and won a final eliminator) for the title. That plan went awry when Hatton accepted a fight against Zab Judah. This move by Hatton has not, however, ruled him out of a title fight against the winner. Rodney Berman explains: “Providing Matthew puts up a good showing against Judah, I have a contractual arrangement with both the Ndou’s for the winner to make a first defence against him, probably in Manchester.”

On Lovemore’s own admission, this is a dream fight he thought would never happen. My lifetime ambition as a boxer was to win a world title – which I achieved. But my ultimate dream was to win a title in the land of my birth and in front of my fans who will come from my home town of Musina near the Zimbabwean border to cheer me on. The fact that I have been given this opportunity – and particularly against a fighter whom I want to teach a severe lesson for his arrogant attitude – is more than I could wish for,” he told me from his Sydney home. At the age of 37, and with a 46-11-1 (31) record, it could
be argued that Lovemore “The Black Panther” Ndou has seen better days and that
he is now on the slide. But what has to be taken into account is the fact that all his losses have been to big-name fighters and all have been on points – some by split
decision.

Making his professional debut in April 1993 with a points win over Enoch Khuzwayo, Lovemore notched up 10 wins against one loss before venturing to Newcastle,
Australia, in June 1995 to fight the unbeaten (22-0) Cliff Samardin. Lovemore lost what was described by the Australian media as a highly controversial decision after eight all-action rounds. But while in Australia he was “spotted” by Brendan Smith, Queensland boxing trainer who currently holds the reins of Michael Katsidis. Lovemore returned to South Africa to challenge Mthobeli Mhlope for the latter’s South African super-featherweight title and their fight in August that year ended in a draw. But Lovemore had returned from Australia with an offer from Smith to come over and campaign there and, the following year, he packed his bags and set off. He has lived there ever since and, in his “second life” in his new country of domicile he has acquired a law degree and is the owner of two homes in Sydney. In his “second” boxing career, he has, to date, had 46 fights with nine losses.

Lovemore won the vacant IBF light-welterweight title in February 2007 by stopping
the highly touted Moroccan exile, Naoufel Ben Rabah (then 24-2), in the 11th round in a brutal contest in Sydney. He lost the title in his next fight when the crafty American, Paul Malignaggy outpointed him in their fight in the US in June that year. In a return in May 2008, Lovemore looked somewhat unlucky in losing a 12 round split decision to Malignaggy before a huge crowd at the Manchester City football stadium.

But Lovemore Ndou had not given up on boxing – and boxing certainly had not given up on the likeable South African- Australian. In November last year he was back again in the US, this time to fight the Puerto Rican KO specialist, Kermit Cintron (30-2(27) at the time) in Nashville, Tennessee in a final eliminator for the IBF welterweight title. Lovemore gave Cintron a tough fight before going down on
points. Lovemore Ndou’s record reads like a who’s who of boxing. Miguel Cotto as
taken all the way, winning a decision over Lovemore in their fight in May 2004 in as Vegas for the WBC International light-welterweight title. And in February 2005 Junior Witter won a 12 round decision over Lovemore in Los Angeles in another very tough fight billed as a final eliminator for the WBC light-welterweight title.

Statistically, the record of Lovemore’s namesake, Phillip is more impressive. The
32-year-old lanky power puncher has notched up a 32-3 (31) record which looks good on paper. But a big question mark hovers over it. Phillip made his professional debut in September 1997, astonishingly in Widnes, Cheshire, scoring a 2nd round TKO over Nigel Leake. Phillip’s then mentor, Nick Durandt, had taken one of his top fighters in his stable to fight in England and had managed to secure his young prospect a fight on a bill in Widnes. After running up a clutch of quick insidethe- distance victories, Phillip surprisingly met his first defeat against a journeyman from London with a mediocre record. Anthony Campbell was a super-lightweight with a patchy 13-14-4 record at the time. Although outweighing Phillip by six pounds, Campbell’s task looked hopeless. Nevertheless, he sprung a huge upset by stopping the South African on a TKO in the 3rd round in their fight at the Elephant & Castle. Phillip regrouped and ran up an impressive list of KO victories which included a 5th round KO over Carlos Rios in July 2001 to win the vacant WBU superfeatherweight title.

In November 2001 at Carnival City he scored a scintillating points win over Cassius
Baloyi in a titanic struggle in defence of his WBU super-featherweight title. He went on the road, scoring wins in the US and England and there was a genuine, but hugely misguided, belief that he had an excellent chance of beating the then WBC lightweight champion, Floyd Mayweather. The fight took place in November 2003 in Mayweather’s back yard in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Although putting up a gallant performance, Phillip was outclassed and stopped on a TKO in seven rounds. Basically, it was no contest. Not discouraged by the loss, he accepted a fight with his greatest local rival at the time, the South African lightweight champion. Isaac “The Angel” Hlatshwayo. In a gruelling and all-action clash at Carnival City in May 2004, Hlatshwayo retained his crown on a split decision. Disaster was to strike soon after. A routine medical examination allegedly revealed a cyst on the brain, bringing Ndou’s boxing career to an abrupt halt.

Almost five years passed - and then something persuaded Phillip to go for further
neurological tests. To the total astonishment of everyone in South African boxing he was given a clean bill of health and a licence to resume his career. Overjoyed at this good fortune, Phillip announced his comeback and joined forces with an ex pro named Mick Castellan. His first comeback fight took place in February this year on a Golden Gloves promotion in Saint-Quentin, France against a mediocre journeyman, Rachid Drilzane. Phillip stopped his unheralded opponent in five rounds – but according to reports “The Time Bomb” did not shine in doing so. In fairness, it would be grossly unfair to expect him to regain his old form after being out of action for almost five years.

But now he faces an opponent who will prove to be as tough as any he has faced. Has he taken this fight too soon – and is it a bridge too far? My gut-feel answer would be yes to both these questions and I would lean towards a Lovemore victory – probably on a stoppage sometime in the latter half of the fight. But there is one absolute certainty about this fight – and that is that Ndou will be the winner.