The Hero Who Danced With Mayweather And Death Returns Home

Published 8 years ago
The Hero  Who Danced With Mayweather And Death Returns Home

At dusk on this warm evening, Phillip ‘The Time Bomb’ Ndou was ready to go off.  In a red gown with white flowing frills, he felt like a king. He danced his way to the ring with the chutzpah of a boxer at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. But this was Thohoyandou, in rural Limpopo, in South Africa, 500 kilometers north of Johannesburg and a million miles from the rest of the world. Through a cacophony of ululations and chants in Tshivenda, Ndou stepped into the ring for the first time in his hometown after a lifetime as a professional.

Boxing fans journeyed from Johannesburg for this fight that is in the heart of the Venda people. People from these parts are accustomed to a different type of boxing, called musangwe, hosted by the Venda king in Gaba Village, near Thohoyandou, every December. Musangwe is tough bare-knuckle boxing with no weigh-in restrictions. This is where Ndou landed his first punch as a young boy growing up in Golgotha Section, a few kilometers from Thohoyandou.


“I have always wanted to fight at home but that never happened for almost 20 years. My manager and promoter, Promise [Moyo], made it possible for me to live my dream,”

says Ndou.

Moyo, a civil servant for 15 years, is now the director of Skylon Promotions that promotes Ndou and four other professional boxers.

“Here is the man with 40 fights but he never fought in front of his people as a professional. His mother, Margaret Nemukula, couldn’t believe it was really happening since there had been many speculations that Phillip is fighting at home but those ended up in disappointments,” says Moyo.


When it happened, it was worth it. The 38-year-old former South African WBA and international WBC junior lightweight champion sent the crowd into a frenzy, at Thohoyandou Town Hall, as he knocked down the Tanzanian slugger, Ramadhani Shauri, in the fourth round. Referee Grace Mahosi ended the eight-round bout when Ndou floored the 23-year-old Shauri for the second time, seconds later. All night, the visitor showed scant respect for Ndou. Against Ndou’s fervent supporters, Shauri had only his trainer Yassin Abaallaa and stablemate Lulu Kayage, a female fighter who won earlier against Lillian Mphahlele, for company.

On August 9, Women’s Day in South Africa to remember a march on parliament in 1956, Ndou’s win was a fitting celebration for his mother. She was in the crowd, with other women from their village. They dressed in colorful Venda traditional clothing to watch their son fighting at home for the first time.

It was a journey that led him in a wide circle. Ndou turned professional after boxing at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, where he lost to Somluck Kamsing of Thailand, who won gold.

Another world title-holder, Ledwaba was in his corner. Ledwaba lost his IBF bantamweight belt to Manny Pacquiao, who stood in as a last minute replacement.


“It was not an easy fight, Ramadhani can crack… I didn’t struggle, but I didn’t know him so I had to read him first. I know my people don’t want to see me standing on the ropes, but when I’m on the ropes I’m more dangerous. From here, I am challenging for the IBF title. I want to say thank you very much to mothers, to the fans, to my promoter,” says Ndou.

This was Ndou’s fifth win on the trot. He is the only African to have fought undefeated world champion Floyd Mayweather. He lost to Mayweather in 2003, at Grand Rapids in Michigan, in the United States. That night, Ndou was ill advised by his trainer Nick Durandt that Mayweather was a coward who would run if hit.

This has been a long comeback from a brain injury Ndou sustained in 2004. It was so bad that a doctor, and Durandt, advised him to stop boxing. In 2009, Ndou was back, knocking out a Frenchman Rachid Drilzane in France. He lost to his cousin, Lovemore Ndou, who is now based in Australia, a few months later in Johannesburg.

Back in Thohoyandou, Abaallaa says his boxer’s loss was down to a lucky punch. He commended Ndou’s experience in surviving Ramadhani’s barrage of punches.


“I would like a rematch because I believe Ndou used his experience to win, he was out-performed – he is not a good boxer that can make us fear him, there’s nothing left in him… you were all quiet from round one to the third. But the lucky punch in the fourth round changed the course of the fight,” says Abaallaa.

But Abaallaa’s wish is unlikely. Ndou has set his sights on the International Boxing Federation Continental African title against Kenyan James Onyango Omogo, in December. Omogo is three years younger than Ndou and has battled through 30 fights.

Ndou may have danced into the ring, but he took many head and body blows from the youthful Ramadhani that he couldn’t dodge, at times he looked his age and a bit slow.

It’s been 12 years and scores of grueling fights since Ndou and Mayweather traded blows in Michigan. They have one thing in common. They both think they have one fight left in their wobbly legs.


Theirs is a story of how cruel the fight game is. Mayweather cruises through life on his millions, Ndou scrapes by at Thohoyandou Town Hall for his next pay check. It’s hard to believe they were both up and coming princes who once shared the same ring.