The man who knocked out Mikey

Tineyi Mharidzo is a simple man living a simple life, despite registering one of the most remarkable achievements in Zimbabwean boxing.

The Zimbabwean boxer, who hails from the high-density suburb of Warren Park in Harare, honed his boxing skills as a street fighter at a commuter omnibus rank in Harare where he worked as a rank marshal.

Nonetheless, after twice knocking out fiery South African boxer Mikey Schultz—the feared confessed killer of businessman Brett Kebble—for the World Boxing Organisation’s African super-middleweight title, nothing has changed much in the life of the 27-year-old. This feat puts into perspective not only the state of boxing in Zimbabwe but the poor recognition of winning an African title.

He still lives in the same high-density suburb with his wife, Eunice Mabika, and two children, Tadiwanashe (two years) and Brendan (10 months). He hangs around with the same old friends at the taxi rank.

“I used to want to fight while being a marshal at the Warren Park rank for omnibuses, where I operated with other guys.
They encouraged me to start training and, in the process, gave me the money they collected to supplement my diet. So now when I’m not doing anything I go there, because they are family. Without these guys I would not be here; therefore I owe everything to them,” he said.

On November 20 last year Schultz was stopped in 86 seconds by the underdog Mharidzo in a match for the interim title.

At the Wembley Indoor Arena on July 8 the South African was hoping for revenge, but this was not to be, as he was caught with a similar overhand right to the head in the third round. It sent him crashing on to his back, where he was counted out by referee Jaap van Nieuwenhuizen at one minute and 11 seconds into the third round. This knockout ensured that Mharidzo retained his WBO Africa super-middleweight title.

Schultz’s handler, Nick Durandt, immediately announced the boxer’s retirement, a decision the controversial super-middleweight pugilist has since reversed.

Mharidzo had gone into the match with an uninspiring fight record of four wins (three KOs) against six defeats, while Schultz boasts 15 wins and one loss. This, according to his trainer, Denver Wyanne, worked in his favour.

“They were underrating us. My boxer went into the ring as an underdog and that pushed him to work even harder at training. Even after winning the match in November, many people in South Africa thought it was a fluke and things also worked in our favour as they kept on postponing the fight, giving us more time to prepare. The win was not a fluke and we are entering world boxing with a bang,” said Wyanne.

The Zimbabwean champion said the achievement had made him hungrier for success. Mharidzo has now set his sights on an International Boxing Federation title or the WBO world crown. Under the WBO rules, Mharidzo will have to defend his title if a challenger comes after 120 days from the day he thumped Schultz.

But Mharidzo said he is ready, even if a challenger comes sooner.

“I am forced to put the belt on the line after 120 days, but I am ready to fight even before the expiry of [that period]. My aim would be to get another belt, like the IBF title. I want to hold more than one title belt and I think this is possible,” he said.

The Zimbabwean, however, conceded that he went into the match with caution and has a lot of respect for Schultz.

“I never underrated him. He is a good boxer and I tried to knock him out in the first round but he stood strong and fought like a man. When I hit him hard, he also came back hard on me. He was stronger this time and that’s why the bout was not as easy for me as the first one was. This time Schultz had trained better, but I also changed my tactics.

“As a boxer, one has to change the approach depending on the opponent. It does not mean that if I come jabbing in this fight, I will do the same in the next. I might go for uppercuts,” he said.

During the fight, he said, he had a problem with his gum-guard, which distracted him, but his trainer had sorted the problem out.
Mharidzo, who trains at the Raylton Sports Club in Harare, joins the likes of the late Proud Kilimanjaro, Schoolboy Tinago, former Commonwealth champion Alfonso Zvenyika and Thamsanqa Dube, World Boxing Federation Pan-African heavyweight champion. Sadly, the achievements of these boxers have done little to lift the almost nonexistent profile of the sport in Zimbabwe. Purses are still pitiful, training facilities are well below expected standards and the interest from the public continues to dwindle.

Seasoned boxing promoter Stalin Mau Mau, nicknamed the Don King of Zimbabwean boxing, believes the country’s ailing boxing scene has the talent but needs corporate support.

“He has done us proud. I want the South Africans to know that lightning does strike in the same place twice. People should give due respect to Mharidzo. The first time Schultz said it was a lucky win and now he cannot repeat the same statement,” said Mau Mau.

Mharidzo’s trainer, Wyanne, said his stable wanted to compete more on the international stage but that the sport suffered from a lack of sponsorship at home.

“We need sponsorship to have more tournaments where we can train more youngsters and we also need finance to keep the champions we have in shape. That is the problem we have here, [but apart from that] we have boxers who can dominate international boxing,” he said.

With the defeat of Schultz, Mharidzo has opened new doors for his career. Three-time international champion Tommy “Tommy Gun” Oosthuizen, who watched the hard-punching Zimbabwean pummel Schultz, regards Mharidzo as the ideal candidate for his next fight. He wants to use the bout to prepare for his coming IBO super-middleweight title shot against Isaac Chilemba.

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