Mancunian boxing prospects prove their worth at first Kwese Cup as UK down Africa

The UK triumphed over Africa in a first-of-a-kind professional team boxing event at Salford’s Victoria Warehouse on Friday.

The home fighters won 3.5-1.5 to win the Kwese Cup in a fascinating night that threw up a number of closely fought bouts and trans-continental upsets.

Team captains Joe Murray, from Levenshulme, and Felix Venganayi headlined the billing with a 10-round fight for the International Challenge Lightweight Title.

Supported by his wife and kids at ringside, Murray’s powerful jabs repeatedly broke through Venganayi’s guard without any significant reply from the Western Cape challenger.

Team Africa’s captain was quick to regain his footing after a contentious knockdown at the end of the sixth, but it was clear that the former Olympian was too much for him.

‘Genius Joe’ forced the stoppage in the eighth round, following a flurry of left and right hooks that had his opponent pinned in his own corner.

The night’s highlight came in the penultimate fight as Craig Cunningham fought IBO All-African Middleweight Champion Lukas Ndafoluma over 10 closely battled rounds.

NIGHT’S HIGHLIGHT: Craig Cunningham taking on IBO All-African Middleweight Champion Lukas Ndafoluma over 10 closely battled rounds

Cunningham, the current WBC International Middleweight Champion, started on the back foot, with Ndafoluma’s superior reach ensuring his hooks were felt before the Brit’s.

The Namibian defended well too and ensured any attempt from his Brummie opponent was replied to with a more accurate and tougher blow.

The Brit showed his talent from the fifth round, with a deft left uppercut and two heavy jabs dominating his opposition momentarily.

The table truly turned in the latter rounds, with a succession of heavy body hooks in the eighth and then a jab in the ninth that forced Ndafoluma onto the ropes, bringing the bout to a crowd-pleasing climax.

A slower-tempo final round saw a left hook bust Cunningham’s nose before the referee called a 96-94 victory to the impressive Nigerian, who dropped to his knees in a mix of celebration and relief.

Another Mancunian interest was Sale’s unbeaten Ben Sheedy, who faced off against 39-year-old Barend van Rooyen.

SALE POWER: Mancunian Ben Sheedy lands a blow on South African Barend van Rooyen

Sheedy looked in control for the first four rounds, attacking the South African from centre ring, most notably with a left hook in the second, leaving Van Rooyen fumbling onto the ropes.

The Greater Manchester crowd got behind the local, chanting his name as the 28-year-old landed successive jabs to his opponent’s head in the fifth.

Van Rooyen’s experience withstood the advances of his younger opponent, and he pressed well with a number of heavy body shots to take the fight to Sheedy.

The Sale man ended the fight strongest, but the judge deemed the two level at 70-70 after eight rounds, a disappointing result for Sheedy, which perhaps should have swung in his favour.

Elsewhere, Bilal Rehman, from Rochdale, highlighted his potential as he took on Brandon Naude in an eight round undercard super lightweight bout.

‘Billy the Kid’’s reach advantage proved too much for the South African, and, despite Naude’s speed attempting to make up for the difference, the promising Mancunian claimed a 80-73 victory.

Scotland’s, Jordan McCorry, defeated Abraham Ndauendapo 95-93 to win the International Challenge Featherweight Title, where a draw may have been a fairer reflection.

Meanwhile fellow Brit, Mark Thompson, retained the International Challenge Super Welterweight Title after dominating Adam Grabiec and forcing the referee to end proceedings in the sixth, with two rounds left to fight.

The event was presented by VIP Promotions and Kalakoda Promotions in association with Trident Sports.

MM spoke to Kalakoda promotion chief and fellow Mancunian, Saul Loggenberg, who believes the new format is a great way to progress the sport.

“The idea was to build an event that has sustainability and more interest value than just one-off fights and to try and eliminate these reputation-building fights.

“Nobody had an easy day at the office, tonight.”

MAD FOR MANCHESTER: Kalakoda promotion chief Saul Loggenberg (right), with Trident Sports promoter Darren Lamb, told MM he’d like the event to return to North West England

Loggenberg reflected on a hard-fought battle and believed his team should have taken the cup.

“In my book it should have been 2.5-2.5 and then it would have been a count back on challenge titles and it’d have been two titles to one to us.”

The South Africa based promoter said the event will come back to Manchester and he is already planning the next UK visit.

“Next time we come we want to make the trip a bit longer, we want the lads to watch United or a City game and build the experience.”

The UK team travel to Africa for the return leg on July 27 2018. 

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