Simpiwe Vetyeka looks to make the first defense of his WBA featherweight crown when he meets three-division titleholder Nonito Donaire on Saturday at Cotai Arena, Macau.
The bout will be broadcast live on HBO in the U.S beginning at 4:00 p.m. ET.
“It is going to be a tough fight,” Vetyeka (26-2, 16 knockouts), a 33-year-old veteran from Eastern Cape, South Africa, told RingTV.com, “but I am ready to defend my titles and be recognized as the best in the world.”
Last December Vetyeka headed to Australia to challenge Indonesia’s boxing star, long-reigning and champion Chris John, who was unbeaten in 51 pro bouts. However, he woke the morning of his world title fight greeted by tragic news, South African hero and world icon Nelson Mandela had passed away.
Having refocused his mind, Vetyeka was determined to give his countrymen something to cheer about ripping the WBA featherweight title from John’s grasp.
“Mandela had a great influence to everyone, especially in South Africa,” said Vetyeka. “Every sporting code would want that ‘Madiba Magic’ to succeed in the big battles ahead. I knew that I had that ‘Madiba Magic’ in my heart.
“Why else would he choose to pass on when I was about to fight in the most important fight of my life. I knew that he will be with me all the way. That is why I dedicated the victory to him.”
The South African simply wouldn’t be denied, inflicting a brutal beating on John, hurting the defending champ late in the fifth before dropping him in the sixth, forcing the Indonesian’s corner to intervene and retire him between rounds.
“I could not believe that Chris had quit on his stool,” said Vetyeka. “He is a legend and that was something I hadn’t even imagined. At that point, I had not even executed a quarter of the game plan. That is how well we prepared for the fight.”
A hero’s welcome awaited Vetyeka up on his return home where scores of his countrymen turned up at the airport and lined the streets to catch a glimpse of their humble new champion.
Anson Wainwright – What are your thoughts on fighting Nonito Donaire in Macau?
Simphiwe Vetyeka – It is going to be a tough fight. With Donaire, the former RING and multi-division world champion, it is always going to be tough. But I am ready to defend my titles (WBA and IBO) and be recognized as the best in the world. I cannot wait for May 31 to come and showcase my talent and abilities against one of the best fighters in the world. It is going to be an interesting.
AW – What do you feel Donaire brings to this fight in terms of strengths and weaknesses?
SV – I feel that I can overcome his strengths and capitalize on his weaknesses. I am not going to divulge these as they are my secret weapon going into the fight. But I can only say Donaire is known for his speed, power and explosiveness, these can be neutralized by any means. He is known to have a big left hook and being a great counter puncher that too can be worked on. The fight will be won by anyone who takes his chances and makes less mistakes.
AW – You caused a huge stir upsetting long reigning WBA featherweight champion Chris John. Can you tell us about that fight and stoppage?
SV – It is now really sinking in. I am the (WBA) “super” champion in the featherweight division.
I went into the fight very confident that I was going to beat Chris John. As a matter of fact, in April (2013), I fought Chris John’s stable mate, Daud Yordan. During the press conference of that fight, I told the media that I was in Indonesia to beat Daud, and I will come back and beat Chris John. They thought I was bluffing. I told them again at the press conference for the Chris John fight, that I was going to stop Chris John. Craig (Christian), his trainer called me names, saying that Chris has never been hurt in his career.
The most confidence I got was when I woke up on Friday morning (Dec. 6, 2013), to learn that our beloved former president was no more. That gave me courage to do something, not only for my country, but for our liberator, Mandela. Going into the fight, there was nothing humanly possible that was going to stop my resolve of inflicting a beating on Chris John.
AW – What was your first thought when you realized you had won?
SV – To be honest, as I was preparing to go for round seven, I saw my team getting into the ring. I thought they were protesting to the referee, who was constantly ignoring the knock-downs on Chris John. I only realized when my manager; Andile Sidinile, gave me a hug and called me the super-champion. I could not believe that Chris had quit on his stool. He is a legend and that was something I hadn’t even imagined. At that point, I had not even executed a quarter of the game plan. That is how well we prepared for the fight.
AW – The day before your title win as you mentioned Mr. Nelson Mandela sadly passed away. This was terrible news for anyone around the world particularly South Africa. How did this motivate you?
SV – Mandela had a great influence to everyone, especially in South Africa. Every sporting code would want that “Madiba Magic” to succeed in the big battles ahead. I knew that I had that “Madiba Magic” in my heart. Why else would he choose to pass on when I was about to fight in the most important fight of my life. I knew that he will be with me all the way. That is why I dedicated the victory to him. You will recall that Mandela was hospitalized for more than three months from June last year; he was preparing us to deal with his passing. The only way we can pay tribute to this giant, was to win and be the first unified world champion in Africa. There is no more motivation better than that.
AW – Mr. Mandela was a very big boxing fan. I'm sure he'd have been very proud of you for winning the title? Did you ever meet him?
SV – No, I have never met Mandela. I was very young when he was released from prison. I was never actively involved in politics, but I know his work as I am a product of a very poor life. He is the one we had put our hopes on. There is hope in South Africa because of him.
AW – What did beating John for the world title mean to you and your life?
SV – Funny you ask that question because I have been busy with interviews when came back from Australia. At the hotel after the fight, my manager Andile Sidinile and trainer (former IBF 122-pound champ) Vuyani Bungu, told me that what I have done is immeasurable, they said I had no idea what I had just done.
Now I can understand what they were talking about. Please listen to Vuyani Bungu at the end of round three, he reminded me about the importance of this fight; what it meant to my family. Now take a look at what I did to Chris from round four until he retired in his corner. This victory is not the end but the beginning of big things to come, I sincerely hope so. I have been very disappointed before, but I have faith in my current team.
AW – You travelled to Indonesia last March and defeated John's protégé Daud Yordan stopping him in 12 rounds. Could you tell us about that fight? Did fighting in Indonesia on the same card as John give you the opportunity to see into the future and get a feel for John?
SV – I think I have answered this question earlier in this interview. If you look at my record, I am used to fighting away from home. The hostile crowds do not scare me. In the ring it is me and the opponent. I knew that by beating Daud, some doors will open, they did. By beating Chris John, more doors have to open, they will. I am ready to mix it up with the best. In this division, there is no one who can outbox me. I am not prepared to call anybody out, but I am prepared to answer any call.
AW – If you look at the featherweight division, what are your thoughts on the fighters and other champions: (WBC) Jhonny Gonzalez, (WBA regular) Nicholas Walters and (IBF) Evgeny Gradovich?
SV – Talent and more talent. As I said before, it is not my style to call anyone, but I will be just like a receptionist in a call center – answer any call that comes in.
AW – You're from Mdantsane, Eastern Cape in South Africa. Can you tell us about your youth and what it was like growing up there?
SV – I am from Duncan Village, an old township in East London, Eastern Cape. It is from this township that the people from Mdantsane were forcefully removed by apartheid government. Every fourth person walking down the street will either be shadow boxing or talking boxing. This includes women. This is the area where I learned the art of boxing. We have many boxers here; it is only a matter of who drives your career to be successful. I hope that my victory will motivate a lot more to take their boxing serious enough to get out of poverty.
AW – How did you first become interested and then take up boxing?
SV – Just like a kid in the streets of Harlem or Brooklyn in New York who will be influenced to play basketball, just like a kid in the slums of Rio De Janiero who will be involved in soccer as if it was contagious disease. In our township, you just cannot escape being involved in boxing, either as a participant or a spectator.
AW – Away from boxing what do you enjoy doing?
SV – I have a beautiful wife and two beautiful boys, aged 3 and a half years old and 18 months. I am a very reserved and quiet person. I like spending my time listening to music and an open debate on social issues. I do not go out often. I do not drink. I do not smoke. I grew up in a very strict family based on Christian values.
AW – You have announced your arrival on the featherweight division by beating Chris John. What would your message to the division be?
SV – It has been a long time coming. At one point I was the WBC bantamweight mandatory challenger. I was supposed to have fought Abner Mares. I do not know what happened. That fight never happened. I was removed as a mandatory challenger. I believe that God has good plans for me.
AW – Is there anything else you’d like to add?
SV – Thank you very much. Best of luck also in your publication. It would be a dream come true if I can defend my titles in the USA. I am ready for that big stage. God Bless you.