Adrian Curiel is good, we will be better, promises Nontshinga's trainer after 2023 shock

It was one of the biggest shocks of last year, when undefeated world light-flyweight champion Sivenathi Nontshinga was stopped in the second round by challenger Adrian Curiel in Monte Carlo.

“The Special One” had talked about a new dawn in South African boxing, but the 25-year-old was upset by the supposed non-puncher from Mexico.

Nontshinga was 12-0, Curiel had scored four stoppages in 23 wins against four losses and a draw, and the defeat came hard for the champion’s trainer Colin Nathan, who instantly wanted a return.

Speaking from Mexico on the eve of running it back, on Friday, February 16, Nathan was quietly-confident of turning things around in Oaxaca. 

“I’m really looking forward to it,” Nathan said of the rematch. “In fact, when we got upset in Monte Carlo, the first thing I asked was, ‘Can we get a rematch?’ So, it’s been actioned, we’re very grateful and obviously now we’ve got to take advantage of the fact that we’ve got the immediate rematch.”

There had been talk beforehand about how the easy-going South African starlet had crossover potential, but Curiel put an abrupt stop to such talk and the associated hype.

Nathan had to pick up the pieces, but he knew what they had to focus on in camp. They have done less media this time, toiling behind closed doors, and while the defeat hurt the proud coach, he has remained pragmatic reassembling the pieces in the aftermath.

“I think the biggest lesson is that this is boxing,” Nathan explained. “It’s a beautiful sport that we’ve chosen and literally one wrong move, one wrong position, one wrong split second, and you can get caught. I’ve explained that to Sive, and obviously he’s tightened up his defencc and we’re looking forward to the rematch. 

“This camp, particularly, has been good. It’s definitely been a lot more thorough and I’ve definitely been a lot more focused on what we need to do this time around as opposed to the first, because it’s not like we were complacent… but as champion, maybe you get slightly relaxed. And it’s just important we were very focused and that was a lesson, that you can’t get complacent at all.”

The first fight took place on November 4, and the former champion was caught moving to his right and onto a long, looping overhand right that caused him to crash to the canvas.

“What do I want to see?” Nathan asked rhetorically of the return. “Listen, we’ve had to make major adjustments in camp, and I’m very happy the way things have gone and if he [Nontshinga] follows the game plan and makes the adjustments necessary, I’m very confident of us upsetting the applecart here in Mexico.”

The South Africans are excited, but the Mexican team will be equally confident after 2023 and Nathan has plenty of respect for the IBF light-flyweight champion.

“I think Curiel is a good fighter,” the coach admitted. “I just think we will be better on the night.”