Mbenge’s twin challenge against two-time Canelo opponent

Former world champion Miguel Vasquez stands between Thulani Mbenge and a US fight date in 2019.

Thulani Mbenge is hard in training for his next title defence, but he’ll be forgiven if he has one eye on America as he prepares to fight tough Mexican Miguel Vasquez.

“Tulz” takes on the former IBF lightweight champion at Emperors Palace on December 8, with the added pressure of a US date in the new year – provided he delivers.

Promoter Rodney Berman has secured Mbenge a shot on a Lou DiBella bill, most likely on a ShoBox event in New York, which is a tremendous boost after just 14 pro bouts.

It goes without saying, though, that Mbenge must come through his acid test against Vasquez, a 46-fight veteran who has been in against top names, among them Josh Taylor, Mickey Bay and Denis Shafikov and Tim Bradley. What’s more, he had the misfortune to make his pro debut against future superstar Canelo Alvarez, losing a split decision. Two years later, they again went the distance.

“He’s high quality,” said Berman of the Mexican, “undoubtedly one of the best fighters to visit our shores in several years. He’s as tough as they come, but if Mbenge is as good as I believe he is, he should be able to come through this one. And then, it’s on to America – if he wins.”

Berman revealed that he has also extended an invitation for popular former middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin to attend the event.