BENEATH her beautiful looks lies a vicious personality, a beast who torments opponents inside the boxing ring.
Likewise, her nickname is “Savage.”
While many boxing followers might be familiar with the name Kudakwashe “Take Money” Chiwandire, the former World Boxing Council Interim Super bantamweight champion, there is another Zimbabwean female pugilist from Gwanda rising up the ladder across the Limpopo.
Monica Mkandla’s rise has been rapid.
She is undefeated in five fights, four of which were fought in South Africa and she is now on the verge of claiming her first international title.
Yet she only turned pro in Chivhu on August 6, 2022.
The 23-year-old Mkandla will take on Mellisa “Honey Bee” Miller (7-12-4) for the African Boxing Union title in Midrand, South Africa on Saturday night.
The fight is one of the undercard bouts to the World Boxing Council International bout between South Africa’s Smangele “Smash” Hadebe and Melisa Meraz.
Fantastic2Boxing Promotions are behind the fight night.
Interestingly, Mkandla has been sparring with Hadebe, ahead of her biggest fight.
Hadebe has beaten Miller twice before.
“My preparations have been good, I have a very strong team and I have been training with the best,” Mkandla told The Sunday Mail Sport from her base in South Africa.
“Sparring with Hadebe has been quite an experience, she is a champion and she is also going to fight for the WBC on the night.”
Hadebe holds the African Boxing Union Flyweight title.
“I know Hadebe defeated Miller twice before, so we know Miller’s game plan, we know how she fights and we are ready for her,” declared Mkandla.
Mkandla started boxing at school about a decade ago.
She took up the sport after she was bullied at Gwanda High School.
“I started boxing back in 2013, after I was bullied in High School, so it was mainly because of self defence.
“But the coach at the school saw that I was good and started training me seriously,” revealed Mkandla.
Ten years later, Mkandla is now one of the most sought after boxers not only in Zimbabwe but in South Africa where she has fought four consecutive fights.
Yet her mother was against this boxing idea. “My mother didn’t approve of boxing, she didn’t want me to get hurt because she really cares about me.
“Other relatives were also surprised with my choice of taking boxing as a sport. They were like, how can a girl do boxing.”
But, most of her relatives are now big supporters.
Actually, Mkandla’s mother has become one of her top fans and she will definitely be following events in Midrand on Saturday night.
Sadly, most female boxers are stigmatized and at worst marginalized, in a country where it is still strange to some, for a girl to try her hand at the sweet science sport.
Yet female pugilists have played a crucial role in raising Zimbabwe’s flag at international boxing tournaments.
Monalisa “Queen of the Jungle” Sibanda, Chiedza Homakoma, Revai Madondo, Patience Masitara, Zvikomborero Danzwa, Mkandla and Chiwandire are some of the active female boxers in the country.
But, female boxers have over the years felt they are not properly recognized even when they post huge results.
Chiwandire became the first Zimbabwean to fight for a WBC gold belt, when she lost on points against Mexican world champion Yamileth Mercado in Mexico early this year.
She also held the WBC Interim Super bantamweight title after defeating former world champion Catherine Phiri in Zambia last year.
She even defended that title against highly rated Mexican boxer Zulina Munoz in October 2022, before taking a shot at the WBC gold in March.
“Women in boxing should be recognized,” urged Mkandla.
“We have been doing well, so we also need the same support as the boys. I feel like they (authorities) don’t take us seriously, yet we put so much effort into this sport.”
Mkandla turned pro against Malawian boxer Sasha Mambo at Phil Jen Country Lodges in Chivhu on August 6, 2022.
She has never lost a fight since then.