HARARE – Zimbabwean boxer Charles Manyuchi arrived back home yesterday to a hero’s welcome after winning the World Boxing Council (WBC) welterweight (silver) title against Dmitry Mikhaylenko in Russia on Friday night.
The 26-year-old won the bout via a unanimous decision after all three judges scored the fight 116-114; 118-110 and 115-113 in his favour to hand Mikhaylenko his first defeat in 22 professional fights on a cold night at the DIVIS Hockey Arena in Ekaterinburg, Russia.
Manyuchi now holds the title vacated by British boxer Amir Khan when he jumped two weight divisions to challenge reigning WBC middleweight champion Saul “Canelo” Alvarez of Mexico. Alvarez defeated Khan by knockout in the sixth round on Saturday night in Las Vegas.
With his win in Russia, Manyuchi is now in line for a big pay date when he defends his title following his latest victory.
There was singing and dancing from local boxing fans when Manyuchi arrived at the Harare International Airport late yesterday afternoon.
The Chivhu-based boxer was mobbed by the fans after exiting the arrivals terminal before he was quickly whisked away to the Harare International Conference Centre where a State gala was held in his honour.
Manyuchi’s manager, Christopher Malunga of Zambia’s Oriental Quarries Boxing Promotions (OQBP) said the path was now clear for the Zimbabwean to dominate the welterweight division in the world.
“This is a special belt; remember it was held by Khan. This boy (Manyuchi) is a fantastic fighter,” Malunga said.
“He knew what we wanted and he worked hard to get there. He will definitely go far. He is destined for greatness.”
Manyuchi had entered the fight against Mikhaylenko as the underdog since he had last stepped into a ring almost 10 months ago.
His last fight was against Italian Gianaluca Frezza last year to defend his WBC international welterweight title.
Manyuchi had won the belt against Devis Caceres of Colombia back in November 2014.
But since defending his crown against Frezza, Manyuchi’s career had taken a downward spiral after he fell out with OQBP.
The Zimbabwean returned to Chivhu and hoped to find a local promoter to finance his title defence but the move backfired.
With the comatose state of local boxing, due to lack of funds, there was no Zimbabwean promoter who was willing to bankroll Manyuchi’s title defence.
In the end, Zimbabwe Sports minister Makhosini Hlongwane mediated between the boxer and OQBP and a resolution to reunite was reached.
Last Friday’s fight was Manyuchi’s first bout since rejoining the Zambian stable and more title fights are in the pipeline.
Hlongwane described Manyuchi’s achievement as a signal of hope to all underprivileged sportspersons around the country that they can also scale dizzy heights.
“Manyuchi represents the voices of many a talent in our rural communities who have not been integrated into our sports systems and that’s why there is need for transformation of the reach of sport as a sector,” Hlongwane told our sister paper, the Daily News on Sunday.
“When I got the news from him yesterday (Friday) that he had won, I could not contain a tear dropping out of my eye, being touched by his achievement, knowing too well how this journey was almost derailed by mischievous elements. I see Manyuchi landing gold in the not-too-distant future.”
Manyuchi rose to national prominence when he beat Isaac Sowah of Ghana in September 2013 to win the African Boxing Union welterweight title.
Since then, he has steadily worked his way up the welterweight division to his current status.