Livefight Interview: Michael Ramabeletsa
Livefight interview: Michael ďThe Trouble MakerĒ Ramabeletsa
ďAll I need is the chance to show I am one of the best fighters aroundĒ
By Michael J Jones
To have a strong will in boxing can be the difference between success and failure. I first spoke to Michael Ramabeletsa about a year ago. During our five minute chat he explained to me how he was ready to box in the UK to show what he could do; insisting he was destined for great things as a prizefighter. Michaelís cheerful faith in his own ability was infectious. Many months later I happened upon a fight report which detailed how the South African was out-pointed by skilful Geordie prospect Martin Ward over six rounds. It was the South Africanís first bout in Britain, the 5ft 6ins bantamweight has fought a further seven times since, taking fights at late notice and giving away home advantage to many talented UK contenders.
Little known over here is that Michael Thabo Ramabeletsa was a top prospect as an amateur back in his home country, winning multiple championships before claiming the SA title in 2002. Anticipation was high when he turned pro in the summer of 2008 aged 26. Mentored by former IBF super-bantamweight champion Lehlohonolo Ledwaba for much of his amateur career, Ramabeletsa forged a 6-2 (3) pro record in SA before problems keeping active forced him to seek a new direction for his boxing career.
The devout Christian eventually happened on these shores last year after a year of inactivity to lose to Ward. After a series of losses, some of which very questionable, Ramabeletsa seems to be hitting his stride now. After taking Ellesmere Port prospect Paul Butler the full eight rounds in January (even cutting the younger man), Michael has won his last two impressively against former English champion Ross Burkinshaw and Ashley Lane.
Now fighting out of Bristol boxing gym and a regular sparring partner for local favourite Lee Haskins, Michael, a misleading 8-8 (4), is still firmly of the opinion that it is still only a matter of time before he fulfils his potential and reaches the top. A friendly and polite young man who is still very fresh at 30-years-old, I caught up with Michael as he was training hard for his September 28 showdown with unbeaten Josh Warrington.
LF) So the obvious question would be how did a South African prospect end up fighting out of Bristol?
MR) It was a dream to come over to the UK. I wanted to increase my exposure as a boxer, it was a very long process to get over here. I was having trouble getting fights in SA so contacted Tony Harris over here. I then had help from Chris Sanigar and Tony Harris, speaking to them many times to make it possible to come over to the United Kingdom. Chris Sanigar arranged for me to spar Lee Selby and Lee Haskins to show what I could do. When he was satisfied I could fight, my sponsorship and travel arrangements were sorted out. After that, thank God I could finally make the trip.
LF) What do you see as different from boxing in SA and fighting in the UK?
MR) Itís different for me and a much bigger challenge. People donít realise that back in SA I was a big prospect, over here nobody knows me. Sometimes I think it affects the judges as they only seem to watch my opponents (when scoring a bout). Iíve lost some fights I thought I won; one guy (Josh Wale) I even broke his jaw and they still gave him the fight!
LF) You lost a total of six fights when you first came over here, but you really seem to be hitting your best form right now with two wins in your last two contests?
MR) They were losses but really; the only fight I think I lost was the one to Paul Butler. I fought Butler on two days notice and had to lose a lot of weight before I stepped into the ring. It was an eight-rounder but I was so weak I couldnít even move. I know I lost that one but the others I felt I deserved to win. I donít let that worry me though as I feel that nothing will let me down (in reaching the top).
I was lucky in a way to gain those last two victories as for the other bouts I never even had a trainer. I trained myself and sometimes it makes a difference in a contest. When you are alone in the ring and you donít have anyoneís support, it can dishearten you in a fight. For my last two contests Iíve been trained by Mehdi Bellarbi, who also works with Lee Haskins.
Ross Burkinshaw I was told was a very good fighter and a hard puncher but I knew I would destroy him (which he did in five rounds). My training is coming together now under Mehdi, my skill is improving and Iím feeling myself gaining in strength all of the time.
LF) You spar a lot with Lee Haskins in Bristol?
MR) Yes all of the time we spar. Heís a southpaw though so I also work with amateur fighters to train for orthodox boxers.
LF) Next up is unbeaten Josh Warrington in Leeds for a Masters title. Do you know much about him?
MR) I donít know a lot. Iíve seen his record, he seems more of a boxer than a fighter. Iím not worried; Iím just praying he trains hard for the fight. He is the prospect so all eyes will be on him, but I look forward to showing my talent in beating him. Iíll be ready 100% to shock people in this fight.
LF) Who are your favourite fighters around at the moment?
MR) I like guys who are skilful and talented; Andre Ward, Floyd Mayweather and Nonito Donaire are my favourites at the moment. I follow their fights and love to watch their skill.
LF) If you get by Warrington what are your hopes for the future in boxing?
MR) After I beat Warrington Iíd like to fight for the commonwealth title. After that Iíd just be ready for the next step. I see myself as one of the best fighters in the world. Iíll fight anybody, if a boxer comes at me at the same weight Iíll take the fight. Itís going to be very hard-going until I come out on top (in boxing), but Iím focussed and ready. All I need is the chance and Iíll be one of the best.
LF) Is there anything you want to add Michael?
MR) Yes I would like to take this time to thank Chris Sanigar and Tony Harris for their help. I wouldnít be over here doing what I love without their help and support. Also my trainer Mehdi for all of his help.
LF) All the best Michael and good luck for your next fight?
MR) Thank you very much.
Ramabeletsa takes on Josh Warrington at City Hall, Hull in a few weeks. Itís Warringtonís hometown and he is a former star amateur with a perfect 12-0 record, but who can possibly write off a man that is as hungry as Michael Ramabeletsa? Current Commonwealth champion at bantamweight is Jamie McDonnell but with the Doncaster man taking part in a world title eliminator soon, donít rule out Michael getting a shot at the vacant title soon providing he can string a few more wins together.