Big time boxing finally returns to the screens of Supersport viewers on the 10th of October when Golden Gloves Promotions, subject to the approval of the Minister of Sport, presents a bumper card at Emperor’s Palace. Many a hurdle had to be cleared, including the absence of a live crowd, extensive testing, reduced number of rounds and eco-isolation for all the participants but fans will finally get to see the fights they have been looking forward to for so long and then some.
The winners may not be certain, but entertainment value for the fans watching from the safety of their homes is all but guaranteed!
4@WAR – Tournament Final and WBA Pan African Junior Middleweight Championship
Boyd Allen vs Brandon Thysse
Records: 5-0-1 (4) 12-2-1 (10) * Records listed as wins-losses-draws (wins by knockout)
In the hotly anticipated final of the 4@War junior middleweight tournament, Boyd Allen takes on Brandon Thysse over 10 rounds. The pair met before in 2019, with Allen winning a close decision. They seemed destined to meet again and now they can erase all doubts as to who the better man is. There will be no possibility of a draw either. Should the bout be even after ten rounds, there will be a fourth judge whose scorecard will be final.
Not only will a 60% share of the prize money and a commemorative diamond ring be at stake for the winner, the WBA Pan African title will also be on the line.
In the semi-finals of the tournament, held in November 2019, Thysse fought a war with unbeaten Roarke Knapp in a fight that stole the show. Thysse showed his trademark left jab and fighting heart but more importantly, he also ironed out some of the crinkles in his game. Gone was the slow start, Thysse getting stuck in from the get-go. Knapp came back well in the middle rounds, landing some sharp punches on the inside but Thysse left no doubt in the seventh, dropping Knapp three times with an array of uppercuts to get the knockout win.
“I think that was Brandon’s coming out performance,” says trainer Damien Durandt. “In the beginning of the tournament, everyone wrote him off and now many people are picking him to win it. The key is not to get complacent and stay focused. Their previous fight was very close and as long as he maintains his form, he will win it.”
Brandon Thysse, however, is not the only one who showed improvement during the semi-finals..
Boyd Allen, the former MMA star, also showed some new angles to his game under trainer, Peter Smith. It was a more poised and calculated Allen who left his awkward switch-hitting style behind to settle in an orthodox stance. He landed his trademark straight rights with authority against Tristan Truter and even exploded with the odd combination when Truter seemed on the verge of taking over. Entering the tenth round, the fight was still up for grabs, some pundits at ringside having Truter ahead, while others had Allen in front. Allen did what was required and closed the show in style, hurting an attacking Truter with his right and then banging away at him on the ropes to force the stoppage.
“I thought Boyd did extremely well. I said to him that he will win by knockout which he didn’t believe at first. He is very good listener, very teachable fighter,” says trainer Peter Smith.
Smith is not taking Thysse lightly though. “There is a lot of work to be done for this fight and we are definitely coming in prepared. Thysse’s confidence has shifted to another level and a confident fighter is a dangerous fighter. The way he came back after losing to (Nkuleleko) Mhlongo, that shows a championship mindset. We can’t be going into this fight just thinking we are going to win. It is a tough one, but we have the right preparation and I believe we are going to win.”
WBA Pan African Welterweight Championship
Jabulani Makhense vs Erik Kapia
Records: 9-0 (4) 22-3-2 (4)
One of South Africa’s brightest rising stars, Jabulani Makhense dips his toe into the welterweight division, where he will be contesting the vacant WBA Pan African title over ten rounds against Eric Kapia, formerly from the DRC.
Makhense came to the pro game with an extensive amateur background that included a bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games. He had a breakout year of note in 2019, recording three impressive wins over Xolani Mcotheli, Micheal Mokoena and Marios Matamba. In a terrific fight of contrasting styles, Matamba gave him a hard time over the first half of the fight but in the end, his superior speed and skills won the day.
The tall and rangy Makhense, who hails from Limpopo, bears a strong resemblance in ring style to another South African great from the same region, Cassius Baloyi and much is expected of him.
Trainer, Sebastiaan Rothman, wants Makhense to make a statement. “People say that he only does enough to win and we want to change that. Obviously, we are not going to turn the fight into a slugfest, that would be stupid, but we are working on him sitting down on his punches. I want him to hit his opponent with five, six punches at a time and try and get him out of there.”
That may be easier said than done. Makhense may be undefeated but with 27 fights under his belt, Erik Kapia is the more experienced. He is not a big puncher, but he is certainly durable and well-travelled, having gone the 12-round distance in Russia in his last bout and holding Roarke Knapp to a draw. Thulani Mbenge remains the only man to stop him and it would be interesting to see what Makhense will do against him.
4@WAR – Junior Middleweight Tournament – Third Place Bout
Tristan Truter vs Roarke Knapp
Records: 8-2 (5) 9-1-1 (7)
The junior middleweight tournament does not only benefit the winners, the two losers of the semi-finals also get a piece of the pie. And why not? A loss is not the end of the world and both fighters put up a gallant display in their respective efforts.
The eight-round bout represents a highly competitive matchup which will offer the winner the chance to put his career back on track.
Former South African amateur champion and ABU welterweight champion, Tristan Truter, put up an epic fight against Boyd Allen. It was touch and go, but in the end, he lost by TKO in the last round. “It was a bit disappointing,” says trainer, Harold Volbrecht. “I thought that he could have taken advantage of Boyd’s mistakes a bit more. He was still on his feet in the last round, I think they stopped it a bit early. At this level, with everything at stake, they could have let it go a bit longer.”
Does Roarke Knapp present an easier challenge for Truter? “No, not really,” replies Volbrecht. “Every fighter is different. Boyd is awkward, the way he jumps around the ring, but Knapp brings other things to the table.”
Volbrecht is a man with a plan for his charge. “I’m glad the fight is happening now and not later. I think Brandon Thysse is going to beat Boyd Allen in the final and I am hoping that we could get a rematch against Boyd after this one.”
Roarke Knapp was giving Brandon Thysse something to think about in the middle rounds before it all came apart in the seventh. What went wrong? Knapp’s trainer Vusi Mtolo has a simple explanation: “Roarke lost focus and then things started going wrong. You must also remember, Thysse is an experienced guy with a lot of amateur fights, Roarke only had a few.” Mtolo relishes the opportunity at redemption. “The loss has woken him up. He is much more focused in training now because he realizes what it takes. He had distractions the first time around, now things are the way it should be.”
Mtolo has high regard for both Truter and Volbrecht and doesn’t underestimate the job at hand. “Tristan Truter is a good boxer and his trainer is one of the best. I respect them.” He is confident of victory, however, and believes in his charge. “Roarke has power. He won’t be able to stand and trade with him. He might get on his feet and move away, amateur style, then it may go the distance, but we have a plan for that.”
Cruiserweight Tournament Semi-Final, WBA Pan African and South African Championship
Akani Phuzi vs Chris Thompson
Records: 11-0 (5) 9-2 (6)
Phuzi-Thompson is one of the semi-finals that will take place on the night over ten rounds with the other semi-final between Keaton Gomes and Lebo Mashitoa tentatively scheduled for December, although the pair will be on standby, should any of the combatants happen to test positive for the COVID19 virus. The South African title, vacated by Thabiso Mchunu, will also be on the line along with Phuzi’s Pan African belt.
Undefeated Akani “Prime” Phuzi is considered one of the top up-and-coming prospects in South African boxing and should start out as a slight favorite. He has been busy and on paper at least, has competed at a slightly higher level than the rest of the field.
He won the WBA Pan African title with a 12-round decision over Youssouf Mwanza in 2018 and has since gone from strength to strength, recording wins over more experienced gatekeepers such as Willbeforce Shihepo and Vikapita Meroro. Trainer, Alan Toweel, is excited about the potential of his charge. “He is coming along nicely. He has a good jab, good right hand and moves well. We are working on having him throw more shots and be more aggressive in the ring.”
His opponent, Chris Thompson, will be nothing new. The pair has fought twice before. In their first encounter, Phuzi was having his second professional outing and Thompson his fourth. Phuzi won that encounter with a close points decision over six rounds. They met again six months later and this time, Phuzi scored a one punch knockout in the second round.
Are they seeing this as an easy fight and is there any danger that the Phuzi camp may be overlooking Thompson? “Not at all,” says Toweel. “We are approaching it like the last fight never happened. Akani is training like a Trojan for this and we will be at our best.”
Chris Thompson, nicknamed “The Wolf,” has won four straight since his last defeat to Phuzi under new trainer, Sean Smith, running his record to 9-2 with six knockouts. He also has a points win over Lebo Mashitoa included in that streak. Against a common opponent, Youssouf Mwanza, Thompson managed to make Mwanza retire in his corner after three rounds whereas Phuzi had to go the distance. That may be an indication that Thompson also has power that needs to be respected.
Is Thompson an improved fighter since the Phuzi defeat? Sean Smith believes that he is. “Phuzi had a solid amateur career whereas Chris didn’t really have a lot of amateur fights. That fight came too early in his career. Since he has been with me, he has been in camp with top class fighters like Thabiso Mchunu and Thulani Mbenge. He has also sparred many rounds with Thabiso, and I believe that has helped him a lot.”
One thing is for sure: All the pressure is on Phuzi for this one and that could work either way with either fighter.