Ngoudjo Confident He'll Dethrone Malignaggi Saturday, Jan. 5 on SHOWTIME
NEW YORK (Dec. 27, 2007) – It was a warm, clear, summer morning in Sydney, Australia, and Herman Ngoudjo was heading to the airport to return to his native Cameroon. Ngoudjo (En-Goo-Jo) had desires of bringing home a medal from the 2000 Olympic Games. But without world-class training, the muscular boxer was eliminated early and would go home empty-handed.
Article posted on 27.12.2007
“I was absolutely thrilled to compete in the Sydney Olympics,” said Ngoudjo (16-1, nine KOs), the International Boxing Federation (IBF) No. 1 junior welterweight contender who challenges IBF champion Paulie Malignaggi (23-1, five KOs) Saturday, Jan. 5, on SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING (11 p.m. ET/PT, delayed on the west coast)..
“I was a longshot to even make the team. A lot of people from my own country doubted me because in Cameroon boxing is not a high profile sport. I wanted to bring home a medal, but I wasn’t prepared for it. I didn’t have the right people around me to succeed in the Olympics.”
To put it in perspective, it would be like a kid from the American Midwest trying to make a career out of playing cricket; you’re simply not going to get an overwhelming amount of support.
Before he departed for Sydney, Ngoudjo trained in relative obscurity with little or no assistance from the Cameroon government. Ngoudjo often worked with inexperienced trainers who, through no fault of their own, made poor use of his natural boxing talents.
While disappointed with his failure to achieve his goal at the Olympics, the experience made him stronger. He realized he was capable of much more than what he showed in Sydney. So shortly after returning to his homeland, Ngoudjo began making plans to relocate to Canada to start his professional career.
“I knew I had to leave Cameroon for a place that was more boxer-friendly,” Ngoudjo said. “I had a dream of becoming a world champion, but I couldn’t see myself doing that if I stayed in Cameroon.”
Ngoudjo said his country, however, would make it painstakingly difficult for him to leave.
“I wanted to compete internationally at the 2001 Francophone Games in Canada. My government, for whatever reasons, didn’t quite see it my way.”
“My own leaders didn’t want me to go. They said I was finished. They organized competitions to test me and I won them all. Still, they didn’t think I was capable of winning.”
Ngoudjo won the battle and competed in the tournament. Despite winning a bronze medal, Ngoudjo’s government woes would continue.
Once the tournament finished, funds earmarked for the boxing team did not materialize.
“I don’t want to focus on what happened in the past,” Ngoudjo said. “My difficulties with the Cameroon government tested me emotionally and physically and they made me a stronger person because of it. It’s in the past. Now, I focus only on boxing and my 14-month-old daughter Céléiah.”
To begin his professional career, Ngoudjo asked Canada to provide him with protection so he could claim refugee status.
With his adopted country providing him safe refuge, Ngoudjo could focus solely on boxing. He would later hook up with Howard Grant, a former world-ranked contender and Canadian lightweight champion. The pair hit it off immediately and Grant agreed to train Ngoudjo in Montreal.
“One of the first things I noticed about Ngoudjo was his great stamina,” Grant said. “In Cameroon, he used to compete in marathons. His amazing lung capacity allows him to fight at a high-rate, throw lots of punches and not have to worry about tiring in the later rounds.”
Under Grant’s tutelage, the once-beaten Ngoudjo would go on to win the World Boxing Council (WBC) International and the North American Boxing Federation (NABF) 140-pound titles.
In 2005, the NABF named Ngoudjo “Prospect of the Year” and the following year the same organization awarded him “Fighter of the Year” honors.
It’s typical for aspiring champions to rack up these type of accolades as they slowly build a resume that is worthy of challenging for a world title.
Ngoudjo’s only professional loss came on a split 12-round decision to former world champion Jose Luis Castillo on Jan. 20, 2007. Many believe Ngoudjo (16-1, 9 KOs) deserved the nod, including the fighter.
“I knew I won the fight but they gave it to Castillo,’’ Ngoudjo said. “A fighter always knows when he has won or lost a fight. Castillo knows how many punches I landed. He didn’t hurt me once.
“But the fight was a great learning experience for me.’’
Ngoudjo earned the shot at Malignaggi by registering a 12-round split decision over hard-hitting, former world champion Randall Bailey in an IBF elimination bout in his last start on June 8, 2007.
“This world title fight means the world to me,” Ngoudjo said.
“I’ve waited a long time and endured plenty of hardships. I’ve made a lot of sacrifices to get to this point and trust me when I say this, I will win this fight.
“I don’t care what Malignaggi says or what he thinks of me. I’m going to take his belt.”
With a victory over Malignaggi, Ngoudjo, nicknamed “Black Panther” for his quickness and speed, will become the first boxer from Cameroon to capture a world title.
Even though Ngoudjo feels that his country has been less than supportive, he still yearns to make his native country proud of him.
“I’ll go back to Cameroon after I win the title,” Ngoudjo said. “Hopefully, my country will have a big parade for me.”
The 12-round world title fight is promoted by DiBella Entertainment in association with Groupe Yvon Michel and will take place at Bally’s Main Ballroom at Atlantic City, N.J. Tickets priced at $250 and $125 are on sale and can be purchased at the Bally’s Box Office, by calling DiBella Entertainment at (212) 947-2577, Ticketmaster at (800) 736-1420 or by visiting www.ticketmaster.com.
SHOWTIME announcers Steve Albert and Al Bernstein will call the action from ringside with Jim Gray serving as roving reporter. The executive producer of the SHOWTIME telecast will be David Dinkins Jr., with Bob Dunphy directing.
For information on SHOWTIME Sports Programming, including exclusive behind-the-scenes video and photo galleries, complete telecast information and more, please go to the SHOWTIME Sports website at http://www.sho.com/sports.
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