Underdog and Unperturbed: Xolisani Ndongeni Not Scared of Devin Haney

Before headlining Friday’s ShoBox broadcast from Shreveport, Louisiana, Xolisani “Nomeva” Ndongeni (25-0, 13 KO) fought months ago at a rundown YMCA in Soweto, South Africa. There he won every round before stopping an inexperienced opponent in the fifth period.

In the 1950s that YMCA building was not in much better shape but it went by a different name. It was called the Donaldson Orlando Community Center; and Nelson Mandela trained there. Yes, the Nelson Mandela who worked tirelessly to end apartheid—a fighter through and through.

Ndongeni, 28, considers himself just as much having graduated from South Africa’s own domestic scene unscathed but also the impecunious streets of Duncan Village, East London where he was born.

“I am a fighter in all aspects of my life,” Ndongeni told Round By Round Boxing.

Now fighting out of Johannesburg under trainer Peter Smith, the undefeated Mzansi makes his second stateside appearance in American blue-chipper Devin Haney’s backyard on Jan. 11 at 10 p.m. ET. on Showtime.

A 12-round decision victory over Abraham Ndauendapo in April 2018 marked his first bout under Smith.

Considering Ndongeni’s time under notable South African trainers Colin Nathan and Damien Durandt—son of the late, esteemed Nick Durandt—hooking up with Smith seemed inevitable as Nomeva rose through the ranks. Smith currently handles the hottest stable in the country, made up of world-level cruisers Thabiso Mchunu, Kevin Lerena and IBO welterweight champion Thulani Mbenge.

Ndongeni understands the talented group he represents, not just in Johannesburg but all of his countrymen, and the opportunity presenting itself:

“South Africa has many talented boxers. Fighting in America is the dream of every boxer here. I am humbled and grateful to come back here and continue where I left off.”

In 2017, amid a short sting living and training in Las Vegas at the Mayweather Gym, Ndongeni defeated Juan Garcia Mendez by unanimous decision in Corona, California. The points win was also aired by Showtime.

And winning is all Ndongeni’s has done in eight years as a professional, molding his game after his childhood boxing idol from a more recognizable London: Chris Eubank.

Eubank, a world champion who specialized not just in warfare but also stylized ring entrances (eccentrically strolling to the ring before leaping over the top rope) and sound bites (“mug’s game,” everybody) possessed a modus operandi between the ropes described by striking guru Jack Slack as, “a game of chicken”—in short, “he fought on the counter.”

Ndongeni, too, is a patient, even if awkward stylist. He hangs back, semi-crouched with his hands to his face, and slides in and out of range, relying mostly on singular punching, pumping out his straight hand from the orthodox stance, spamming it even in the humorous manner of Emmanuel Augustus.

The shot will not blow down any doors. Thirteen knockouts to his name, the punch still freezes his opponents. Playing rugby growing up, Ndongeni’s teammates noticed that too about his hitting prowess, dubbing him “Nomeva,” or the “Wasp” in English.

“My punches may not look powerful but they sting,” Ngondeni admitted.

So not a murderous punch “The Dream” Haney should look out for this weekend. But a brand of awkwardness like that that can be hard to prepare for.

The bookies though are not convinced. Ngondeni is a real underdog (+1400) to pull one over on the 20-year-old Haney (-5000).

Undefeated himself, Haney (20-0, 13 KO) is an amateur world champion. Boxing Scene named him 2018’s Prospect of the Year.

But with five more years as a professional under his belt, the visiting fighters knows even the most acclaimed prospects still have a lot to prove.

“Haney is a young, good prospect,” Ndongeni said. “But I’ve seen it all—we’ve still yet to see about him.”

Haney’s biggest win to date would be his last one, schooling three-time world title challenger Juan Carlos Burgos in September 2018.

Nomeva takes pride in fighting off a bevvy of veterans, training for 12-round contests three years into his career, and in 2015 defeating two-time junior lightweight champion Mzonke Fana.

“I’m not scare of any lightweight in the world,” Ndongeni said. “I can box, fight, and always push harder and dig deeper than the man in front of me.”

And no different than Eubank, he is more than a fighter but a proper showman. In Louisiana, he has more than one performance up his sleeve.

Turn up your volume. Ndongeni assures that he will be singing his own ring walk music, a song for which he wrote and is the namesake of: “Nomeva.”


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