South Africa’s newest female boxing champion, Leighandre “Baby Lee” Jegels, is extremely happy to have finally won the national title – now her focus is on world glory.
The 22-year-old fighter from East London was pushed all the way by a determined Nolubabalo Ngqondelana before winning the vacant SA junior-bantamweight championship at Mdantsane Indoor Sport Centre last Sunday with a unanimous points decision.
This was Jegels’ toughest bout in an unbeaten record of seven professional outings. She had ended all her previous fights by technical knockout.
Ngqondelana was the only foe who stretched Baby Lee the full distance.
She tore into her more illustrious opponent with furious punches, but fatigue took its toll towards the end, giving Jegels more room to dominate. Judges Andile Matika, Thandi Ngodwana and Allen Matakane scored the fight 96-93, 98-91 and 97-94, respectively, in favour of Baby Lee.
But Jegels believes the road to her big moment – winning the global title – is about to be opened.
“I’m extremely happy with the way my boxing career is shaping up. Not so long ago, I was an unknown contender in the ratings, and now I’m a national champion,” said Jegels.
“My aim is to punch my way into winning the world belt of any sanctioning body.”
Jegels, who is now under the tutelage of Boy Boy Mpulampula after having severed ties with former International Boxing Federation junior-featherweight titleholder Vuyani “Beast” Bungu in November, has praised her new mentor.
“He helped me with the psychological aspect like believing in my myself so as to get motivated for the fight. This helped me win. I believe this will lead to me being crowned the world queen soon,” she said.
Jegels, who has also been a karateka since 2009, is not choosy about which global fistic crown she wishes to have. For now, she has shelved her passion for karate in her quest to bag a major boxing title.
“Any global belt is fine by me because it will obviously enhance my profile in female boxing,” said Jegels.
Baby Lee would like to see herself having a shot at the national flyweight diadem first, if possible.
The official weight to qualify in the junior-bantamweight category is 52.16kg, while flyweight is 50.8kg, the difference of a mere 1.36kg.
“I’m more comfortable fighting as a flyweight. It will be great to win the belt in this category as well,” said Jegels, who features along with 11 other South African female boxers on the ratings list (see box).
According to Boxing SA (BSA) chairperson Muditambi Ravele, the pugilist’s title conquest bodes well for female boxing.
“The win by Jegels shows that BSA’s campaign to empower female boxers is starting to bear fruit. More women are now getting an opportunity to participate in boxing,” she said.