Hlatswayo looking to make most of opportunity in USA


Hlatswayo looking to make most of opportunity in USA

Press Release: A humble, soft-spoken young man and dedicated Christian, Issac “The Angel” Hlatshwayo was a choirboy when he was young. However, he was no angel. One of five children, Hlatshwayo was a street fighting kid. “I used to provoke guys to get them to fight me,’’ Hlatshwayo said. “It was just a matter of me enjoying fighting.’’ For a time, none of his relatives were quite sure how to handle the baby-faced boy brawler, whose passion for pavement punching began when he started beating up the neighborhood kids in the poor community where he was born in South Africa. Ultimately, however, his grandmother would step in. “It was my Granny who motivated me to get started in boxing and join a boxing club,” Hlatshwayo said. “She thought it would help discipline me. In the African tradition, it is the grandmother who is the grand matriarch of the family, and whose word commands a great deal of respect.
“I had been getting into a lot of tough street fights and Granny was not happy with me. She persuaded my parents to allow me to join an amateur boxing club. It was all over after that. Once I got that smell of the leather and the liniment in my nostrils, there was no looking back." Hlatshwayo became more disciplined once he began to restrict his fisticuffs to sanctioned activity in a ring. He also remained as successful. Hlatshwayo had more than 50 amateur fights and is undefeated as a professional. His most notable pro victories came on 12-round decisions over fellow South Africans Phillip Ndou and Cassius Baloyi in May 2004 and August 2005, respectively, and American Nate Campbell on April 7, 2006.
“As long as I keep winning, things will fall into place for me,” said Hlatshwayo (26-0, 1 NC, 9 KOs), who will take on junior welterweight contender Kendall “Rated R’’ Holt (20-1, 12 KOs) for a regional title on “ShoBox: The New Generation’’ Friday, November 3, at Bally’s Casino Ballroom in Atlantic City, N.J. The comebacking Holt has been sidelined with an injured his right hand, and will make his first start in 14 months. The Duva Boxing-promoted “ShoBox’’ fight card will air on Showtime at 11 p.m., ET/PT (delayed on the west coast). “This is a great fight and yet another dangerous test for me,” Hlatshwayo added. “Holt is one of America’s rising stars.”

 A solid, fundamentally sound fighter, Hlatshwayo is considered by some to be his native country’s top fighter. The 2005 South Africa Fighter of the Year currently is ranked in the top ten at junior welterweight by the WBC, WBO and IBF.  The scheduled 12-round jolt with Holt will be the fifth United States start for the five-foot-eight-inch, 28-year-old Hlatshwayo, and his second in a row at 140 pounds.  The undefeated fighter will celebrate his 29th birthday one week after the “ShoBox” telecast.


 “This is a big challenge for both young men,” said “ShoBox’’ blow-by-blow announcer Nick Charles. “Holt is definitely a puncher and the naturally bigger man. (But) I think he has a very difficult time finding Hlatshwayo. Holt’s long layoff cannot help either. In short, Holt is in against a guy who can really make him look bad if he is not in prime condition.  “As for Hlatshwayo, it is all about movement and fighting quickly. He needs to get in and punch, then get out while giving constant angles."


Offered ‘ShoBox’ analyst Steve Farhood, “Holt and Hlatshwayo are fighters who have teased us and who we have been looking forward to seeing more of. Holt was impressive defeating David Diaz on “ShoBox.” That win is even more impressive since Diaz subsequently secured a portion of the world title. Hlatshwayo defeated Campbell, who just won a fight that suggests he has plenty left as well.  “This fight will not only allow one fighter to advance and reestablish his credentials, but it could well lead to a title fight for the winner.’’


Holt, of Patterson, N.J., was an excellent amateur before turning pro on March 30, 2001.  In his 15th pro outing, the unbeaten prospect scored a spectacular opening round, one-punch knockout over Gilberto Reyes on March 26, 2004, in Miccosukee, Fla. In his next start, Holt suffered his lone defeat on a shocking first-round TKO to Thomas Davis on June 18, 2004, in Chicago. Holt staggered Davis early in the round and then rocked him two more times before Davis rallied to score two knockdowns. The referee stopped the fight without a count at 2:59.  “Nobody wants to lose, but I think it really got me in tune with my career,” Holt said. “It opened my eyes to what was really going on, how things are supposed to really go. I had been winning, but I was getting by on talent alone. Losing made me go in the gym and work harder. It made me more focused.’’


Holt has come back strongly and won five consecutive bouts, including the big victory on Feb. 4, 2005, on “ShoBox’’ over the highly regarded Diaz (26-0 going in).  Diaz went on to win the interim WBC lightweight title in August 2006. The fight against the previously unbeaten 1996 U.S. Olympian was a big step up in class for Holt, but he performed admirably. He scored a knockdown with a snappy left-right during a furious exchange in the last seconds of the first round, and Diaz was cut over the right eye at the same time.  Even though the rounds were close, Diaz seemed to get stronger as the match progressed. But Holt kept Diaz off-balance with constant movement. Diaz scored a knockdown when Holt’s gloves touched the canvas in the eighth, but Holt came back strongly in the ninth to stagger Diaz repeatedly.


 “I have got some things to work on, but this means the world to me,’’ said Holt after the referee stopped a bout he was leading by 68-63 twice and 67-64 at 2:26.  “I knew going in this fight was mine’’  After becoming the only boxer to defeat Diaz, Holt captured a 12-round split decision over southpaw Jaime Rangel (30-7-1 going in) on May 27, 2005, in Pompano Beach, Fla. Rangel scored a knockdown in the first and continually pressed forward, but Holt frustrated him with movement and won by the scores 115-111, 114-112 and 110-116.  In his last outing on Sept. 24, 2005, Holt won a 10-round unanimous decision over Volodimir Khodakovskiy in Atlantic City. In control for the most part, Holt won 99-92, 98-92 and 97-93.


Holt has been slated to fight a couple of times since, but due to his injury, the bouts never came off. He realizes the risks involved in engaging a skilled foe such as Hlatshwayo after so much time off and that it is asking a lot for a guy who relies on movement, timing and speed to box at peak efficiency.   However, ring rust is not a concern for the speedy Holt, who is too confident in his abilities and wants to be champion too badly to turn his back on the opportunity.  “I know it is going to be a tough fight,’’ the five-foot-nine-inch, 25-year-old Holt said. “Hlatshwayo throws a lot of punches. This is the most important fight of my career.


 “The most important mission in my life is to take care of my four-year-old son the way he deserves to be taken care of. Win this fight against Hlatshwayo and it will open the door for my getting the bigger fights that will allow me to take care of him properly. Nothing will prevent me from doing that. I feel sympathy for Hlatshwayo. He is going to get caught in the crossfire of my mission." 


While not exactly a road warrior (24 of his pro starts have taken place in South Africa), Hlatshwayo is no stranger to fighting and performing well on his opponent’s home apron. The fight that propelled him into the public’s conscience came against Campbell in Tampa, Fla.   “More people started to pay attention to me after that fight,” said Hlatshwayo, a useful, accurate puncher but definitely not a banger. “Now, I need to keep it going." Hlatshwayo turned pro as a lightweight at the age of 22 on Feb. 15, 2000. After going 5-0 in 2000, he won six starts the next year and was named 2001 South Africa Prospect of the Year.


 In his 14th outing, Hlatshwayo captured the South African title with a 12-round decision over Martin Jacobs on Oct. 5, 2002, in Johannesburg, South Africa. The energetic Hlatshwayo outclassed the defending champion in all departments and won 119-111, 117-111 and 117-112. Hlatshwayo vacated the national title to pursue his international career shortly after he successfully defended it a fifth and final time with an exciting, 12-round split decision over Ndou (115-113 twice and 113-115).  Hlatshwayo’s U.S. debut with Marty Robbins on Feb. 4, 2005, in Mashantucket, Conn., ended in a first-round no-contest. He was just starting to land long, straight punches to Robbins’ head, when the two cracked heads accidentally. Robbins got the worst of the butt and the fight was stopped after the first. 


 In his second stateside start, Hlatshwayo dominated William Morelo en route to winning a 10-round unanimous decision on May 13, 2005, in Las Vegas. On August  31, 2005, Hlatshwayo returned to South Africa and captured the IBO lightweight title with an easy decision over once-beaten Baloyi. Hlatshwayo dropped the three-time world champion in the second round en route to winning 119-108, 117-112 and 116-112.  Less than six months later, Hlatshwayo retained his title by winning a 12-round unanimous decision over Argentina’s Aldo Rios in Brakpan on Feb. 25, 2006.


Drained from having to make 135 pounds, Hlatshwayo was sluggish throughout and weary down the stretch. Not know for his power, Rios had Hlatshwayo hurt and in danger of being stopped in the 12th. Although the fight was closer than the scores indicated, Hlatshwayo won 118-111, 118-110 and 117-111.  “In the end I was very tired, but I came back,’’ said Hlatshwayo, who did not land many telling blows during the first 11 rounds. Hlatshwayo was in top shape for his next outing, and it showed as he produced a career-best performance in a thrilling fight against the more seasoned Campbell (28-4-1 going in).  Campbell seemingly had all the advantages going in, including home field advantage. 


 Pride is one of the South African’s most important attributes, so after spotting the fast-starting Campbell an early edge, the naturally bigger and stronger Hlatshwayo came back. Utilizing a sharp, steady jab followed with accurate combinations, Hlatshwayo outhustled his favored foe over the bulk of the IBF elimination bout and survived a late rally to win 117-111, 116-112 and 113-115.  At his best when an opponent comes to him, Hlatshwayo remained composed when Campbell picked up the pace and started to apply more pressure during the last two rounds. Instead of crumbling, Hlatshwayo remained calm and chose his spots while throwing punches in sequences. Although Campbell came on strongly, he had been outworked and outwilled in most of the rounds. Hlatshwayo was simply busier and fighting harder.


 There would be no immediate in-ring, post-fight party for Hlatshwayo, however.  When the decision was announced to the crowd, Campbell dropped to the canvas in celebration with the premature belief he was the winner. Due to some language difficulties and the vision of Campbell prone on the canvas, Hlatshwayo thought he was the loser. It took several agonizing seconds before the verdict was explained to both boxers and Hlatshwayo was assured that he was victorious.   In his last fight on June 17, 2006, in Memphis, Hlatshwayo won a dominant, eight-round unanimous decision over Jeremy Yelton. Working behind a constant jab, he consistently ouboxed and outpunched Yelton en route to winning 80-72 twice and 79-73.


Hlatshwayo, who describes himself as a dedicated Christian, believes in clean living and hard work. “My mom told me to stay away from the guys who take alcohol and smoke,” Hlatshwayo said. “We learned to live a much better life from the guys who drink or smoke."   In preparation for a fight, Hlatshwayo trains nearly five hours a day.  “I really believe that if you work hard, in the end, you will live like a king,’’ he said. 


 Regarding his nickname, Hlatshwayo said, “They call me ‘The Angel’ because of my looks. I used to sing in the church choir when I was at school. Somehow, someone found that out about me and they started calling me it just after I’d turned professional.   Born and raised in Shisasi Village, Hlatshwayo grew up and still resides in nearby Malamulele, South Africa. In his spare time, the father of two loves to listen to music. He is managed and trained by Manny Fernandes.   “It is a challenge for me to fight in front of the Americans,’’ Hlatshwayo said. “I am ready to show that I am one of the best boxers to come out of South Africa.’’