PHILLY BOXING HISTORY                                                                     September 13, 2011


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Editor's Note: South Philly's favorite Tanzanian heads back to the championship boxing  ring Thursday night when he tries to topple yet another monumental betting favorite in an attempt to win a world title belt. Mtagwa will face WBC featherweight champ Jhonny Gonzalez in El Paso in what has to be his final shot at glory. On paper, Mtagwa has no chance of winning, but he is a fighter that has made a career of defying expectations and surprising everyone. He is one of the guys you can never completely count out. But with all the incredible comebacks and performances, he has never made it to the very top. On Thursday he has one more chance. Writer Gary Purfield spoke with Mtagwa and manager Joe Parella and posted this report.


Mtagwa Gets Final Shot At Dream

 by Gary Purfield


Journeyman, trial horse, opponent - all titles used to describe those guys in boxing that fight the future star.  He is the guy you put in with your hot prospect so he can get some experience.  Maybe the opponent has just enough skill to make it interesting but not enough to threaten the precious unbeaten record.  Perhaps the opponent has a particular skill or talent such as speed, toughness, or good defense, which will give the prospect experience against this particular obstacle.   

Typically news coverage focuses on the prospect. Rarely does the opponent (also pleasantly called tomato can, cannon fodder, and other less adoring terms) get the focus. However, now and then one comes along that deserves some precious ink. 

Such is the case with Rogers Mtagwa of Tanzania who resides and trains in Philadelphia.  Despite not being a Philly native, Mtagwa “the Tiger” fits right into the tough, blue collar, Philly boxing tradition.  He relocated from Tanzania to Philadelphia in 2000.  Mtagwa stated that he was told he was a good fighter in Tanzania and offered the chance to come to America.  Since that time, he has taken on a host of names losing tough bouts to Orlando Salido, Antonio Diaz, Billy Dib, Juan Manuel Lopez, and Yuriokis Gamboa.   

His most notable win was a tenth round KO of Tomas Villa in 2008, but his most memorable performance was his come from behind rally against then unbeaten and WBO Super bantamweight champ Juan Manuel Lopez (Mtagwa talked of both fights as his best moments in his career).  Trailing on the scorecards after absorbing shots from a true power puncher, Mtagwa made a late rally, hurting and nearly stopping the young Puerto Rican star.  Mtagwa had Lopez basically out on his feet in the twelfth round, coming ever so close to that career defining win and championship belt.  Despite losing, it was an incredibly fan-friendly gusty performance, produced a fight of the year candidate, and won him the Briscoe award as the 2009 Philadelphia Fighter of the Year.  

The performance lead to another high profile bout with his biggest career payday, taking on Lopez’s young rival Yuriokis Gamboa.  Unfortunately for Mtagwa, this time he did not have the same luck, and was blasted out in two rounds absorbing a great deal of punishment.  

In all of his fights, win or lose, Mtagwa gives it his all and fights with the heart of the fictional Philadelphia fighter Rocky Balboa.  After a nineteen month layoff following the Gamboa fight, he returned to score a TKO over Pedro Navarrete in August of this year.   

Now Mtagwa 27-14-2 (19 KO), at thirty two years old, with a wife and three kids is getting one more shot at a title.  The opponent has one more chance to have his Rocky moment when he meets Jhonny Gonzalez 49-7 (43 KO) this Thursday in El Paso, Texas for Gonzalez’s WBC featherweight title.  His team knows that without at least a great performance, this will be his last crack at a title belt.   

To accomplish his goal, he will have to pull out even more than the Lopez performance.  The Nacho Beristain trained technician, Gonzalez, is skilled and dangerous.  His seven losses are deceptive considering Gonzalez turned pro in 1999 at eighteen years of age and lost his first two pro bouts.  Gonzalez has won eight in a row all by knockout including his WBC title-winning effort from Hozumi Hasegawa with a fourth round stoppage.   

Given the position each fighter currently holds in their careers - Gonzalez on a KO streak and Mtagwa a veteran of more than his share of grueling wars - some might have real concerns about this fight even happening.

However Mtagwa's manager Joe Parella said that the last thing he would do is send his fighter off to slaughter for a payday. He said that if he did not believe Rogers could win the fight, he would never have made the match.

Rogers explained in his quiet way that he has been watching tapes of Gonzalez and believes he can beat him.  Mtagwa also said that he was surprised and very excited to get another title shot at this point in his career.  Parella was more straight forward, stating that if Rogers listens to his corner, he will be the winner, and that Mtagwa has the power to stop Gonzalez. 

Parella said that all week he has been walking around saying “and the new”, referring to what he believes will happen after the fight on Thursday when the ring announcer calls out, “and the new WBC featherweight champion, Rogers “the Tiger” Mtagwa.”

The Gonzalez-Mtagwa fight will be broadcast live by ESPN Deportes, Thursday at 8:30 PM (Eastern).




Gary Purfield - News & Notes - September 13, 2011

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