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Speechly looking to end welterweight curse

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JACK MILNER
 

How times have changed! So many years later there is suddenly a plethora of top Jewish athletes in so many sports. Many Jews have played a role in the administration of sports or owned some of the clubs. In fact, Sigmund Freud once remarked that the Jewish community did not prioritise “harmonious development of spiritual and bodily activity”.

In the late 1990s in South Africa, as people like Mandy Yachad and Lawrence Seeff were reaching the end of their playing careers, not too many Jewish sportsmen entered the professional ranks. A lot had to do with the change in South Africa where many experts believed there was no longer space for a white sportsman, let alone a Jewish one.   

In Israel and the US, the redistribution of people from the former Soviet Union played a major part in raising the level of Jewish sportsmen and women. Jewish boxers such as Dmitri Salita and Yuri Foreman made an impact on the international scene.

But one area in South African that has attracted Jewish interest, is Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) and Adam Speechly has to be one the best exponents of this sport in the country.

Nicknamed “the Prodigy”, the 25-year-old is the current and two-time Extreme Fighting Championship (EFC) welterweight champion, a title he won last month when he defeated the holder, Nigerian-born, Ireland-based Henry “Herculeez” Fadipe, in a unanimous points decision.

Adam, who weighs in at 170 pounds and fights in the welterweight division, has now had 11 EFC fights of which he has won seven and lost four.

Fadipe went into last month’s bout as the bookies’ favourite with a string of devastating finishes behind him. Popular sentiment was that he was unbeatable, but Adam believed that was not true.

Adam, who was EFC’s first-ever welterweight champion, came in with a strategy of dominant grappling and executed it to perfection – nullifying Fadipe’s dangerous finishing capabilities.

The “Prodigy” survived a series of powerful submission attempts from the champion and weathered an armbar that nearly hyper-extended his elbow, to grind “Herculeez” out of the fight by unanimous decision.

In so doing, Adam continued the fabled welterweight curse, a pattern he began by losing the very same belt on his first title defence over three years ago. The welterweight belt has still never been successfully defended. It now falls to Adam to end what he started.

That fight will be coming up on December 11, live from the Coca Cola Dome in Johannesburg – the last event of the year. Adam has signed to face World of Warriors’ David Buirski, the oldest and most experienced of the Buirski brothers, and the No 1 welterweight contender.

Fight fans from around the world will be waiting to see whether the new year will usher in a new champion and whether Adam will finally be able to break the welterweight curse.

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