As South Africa’s Azinga Fuzile prepares to challenge for the vacant IBF super-featherweight world title on Saturday night, Boxing Social gets the lowdown on his prospects from the Golden Boy’s manager Colin Nathan…
Azinga Fuzile has long been seen as a future world champion by his manager and former trainer Colin Nathan.
Now the skillful southpaw from Duncan Village in East London, South Africa has the chance to ascend to world honours when he faces Kenichi Ogawa of Japan for the IBF super-featherweight title at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night.
“Azinga is a very special talent,” Nathan told Boxing Social by telephone from New York as fight night drew closer. “He’s very awkward. His hands are low, his feet are very wide, he makes you miss. He’s very hard to pin down and hard to catch. He has very good reflexes, great timing and he’s a very good counter-puncher. Those attributes make him very special.”
Nathan confirms that Fuzile is in excellent shape. “At the press conference yesterday he was beaming and his skin tone looked good. It’s great to be in New York City and it’s great to be a part of such a big event.
“Saturday night is an amazing opportunity for Azinga on two fronts – he gets to fight at the iconic Madison Square Garden, one of the greatest and most prolific boxing venues in the world, if not the most. And he’s also getting an opportunity to fight for a legitimate world title.”
For all Fuzile’s skill, however, Nathan admits that the 33-year-old Ogawa will be a formidable foe and should not be under-estimated.
“Ogawa is very good. He’s highly experienced, almost a veteran in the division. He’s got a very good record and he’s a very aggressive fighter. He throws a lot of punches and obviously Azinga needs to figure out early on how to negate and combat that.”
Nevertheless, Nathan is confident his charge will prevail. “I think potentially the more aggressive Ogawa is the more that will suit Azinga. Ogawa can be one-dimensional in his attacks and I think that will suit a counter-puncher like Azinga down to the ground.
“I see Azinga picking his spots and punches. I think he can hurt Ogawa, win rounds and stop him late or win a unanimous decision.”
Fuzile has had a somewhat turbulent couple of years. In September 2019 – in an IBF eliminator – he was stopped in eight in his hometown of East London by Tajikstan’s Shavkat Rakhimov.
A subsequent protest by Nathan relating to alleged use of prohbited smelling salts by the Rakhimov corner was rejected by the IBF.
However – in a twist many have argued represents some form of karmic justice – an injury to Rakhimov, who was originally due to fight Ogawa, now sees Fuzile get his world title chance.
Since the Rakhimov loss, Fuzile has re-hired his former trainer Chief Njekanye, but retained Nathan as his manager.
“Our paths and relationship have slightly altered,” Nathan explains. “Azinga left his old trainer [Chief Njekanye] to come to me and then things went full circle when he left me to go back to his old trainer. But I still manage the kid.
“I do all the deals for Azinga and my responsibility is to get him the right opportunities, the right fights and the best deals. We got him the eliminator against Martin Ward for him on the undercard of Haney vs Linares. He looked really good in that fight.
“Azinga was a really good amateur and travelled abroad, but this fight is in another league. The experience in Vegas will have given him a lot of confidence. He beat Ward emphatically.
“The Rakhimov loss was a wake-up call. He got caught by a horrible punch. That can happen. But he dusted himself off and got back in the win column. He was out for a long time before the Ward fight.
“We weren’t supposed to get this opportunity but Rakhimov got injured and Azinga was next in line. Obviously we had tried to get the Rakhimov result overturned.
“That didn’t happen but now we’ve got our shot instead and it’s up to Azinga to take it. And if he does it will be massive for South African boxing because we don’t have a legitimate world champion right now.”