There is a “strong chance” that WBA featherweight titleholder Simphiwe Vetyeka will make his first title defense against Japanese contender Akifumi Shimoda on Feb. 22 at the Venetian Resort in Macau, China, Vetyeka's manager Andile Sidinile tells RingTV.com.
Vetyeka (26-2, 16 knockouts), the 33-year-old South African who rose to prominence a month ago when he sent long-time featherweight stalwart Chris John into retirement with his first loss, says that he's scheduled to begin training in Cape Town, South Africa on Friday for the fight.
A source within Top Rank, which will promote the event, says that the fight has been verbally agreed to but wasn't sure if the contracts had been sent out.
Vetyeka says that he knows little about Shimoda (28-3-2, 12 KOs), a former WBA 122-pound titleholder, aside from the fact that he's a southpaw.
“I've never even see his face,” said Vetyeka.
Shimoda, 29, won his title in 2011 but was knocked out in seven rounds by Rico Ramos in his first defense later that year. Shimoda has won five fights and drawn one in his native Tokyo since losing his title.
The card will feature three Olympic gold medalists in separate bouts, including Zou Shiming (2-0), of China, Ryota Murata (2-0, 2 KOs), of Japan, and Egor Mekhontsev (1-0, 1 KO), of Russia.
While Vetyeka's next opponent seems lined up, his eyes are already looking towards bigger game. Vetyeka says that showdowns with WBC featherweight titleholder Jhonny Gonzalez and former multiple-division champion Nonito Donaire Jr. are high on his wishlist in 2014."
“Gonzalez first and the rest can follow because he's holding everyone's dream title,” said Vetyeka. “I only saw him beating Abner Mares and heard that he knocked out [former champion Hozumi] Hasegawa inside four rounds. I believe that I'm the king in this division so I'll love to fight and beat the best.”
“Simphiwe just told me the other day that the fight he wants most is Donaire,” added Sidinile, “but we are told that Donaire will only fight late May or early June. So it makes sense to fight on HBO in February and make an impression to the American viewers, then the big fight can take place. Currently very few people know about Simphiwe.”
Sidinile says that they still have two options with Chris John's promoters Dragon Fire Promotions, but is confident that it won't be an obstacle to making big fights.
“We will have to talk to them and see if they can arrange these big fights,” said Sidinile. “Failure to do so is not something expected.”
Ryan Songalia is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and is a contributor to The Ring magazine. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. An archive of his work can be found at www.ryansongalia.com. Follow him on Twitter: @RyanSongalia.