After a lot of back-and-forth banter, one of the best local matchups that can be made is set for the 3rd of September at Emperor’s Palace, pending approval from Boxing South Africa. With top class action taking place on the preceding two evenings, Golden Gloves have saved the best for last!
Undefeated Rowan “Braveheart” Campbell will put his IBO All-Africa super middleweight championship on the line when he meets veteran, Ryno “The Lion” Liebenberg, over 12 rounds. The WBA Pan African title will also be on the line.
It all started in November when Liebenberg got into the ring after Campbell’s last victory and words were exchanged. To the public mind at least, a big local showdown seemed imminent, but all that evaporated within days.
Forced to explore local options, the Campbell-Liebenberg showdown has resurfaced and both camps have finally agreed to terms.
Campbell has done remarkably well for someone with almost no amateur background, much like his more advanced stablemate, Kevin Lerena. He has steadily improved under the watchful eye of trainer Peter Smith against increasingly tougher opposition, running his record to 12-0 with eight knockouts. A steady pressure fighter with a solid jab and booming right, he will have to lift his game to another level yet again.
There is also an added incentive for Campbell: He was originally scheduled to fight for the vacant IBO world title before COVID-19 put a spanner in the works and the IBO has agreed to compensate him for the unforeseen circumstances. Should he get past Liebenberg, whoever wins the vacant title will be mandated to defend against him.
Liebenberg has been around the block and has fought at a higher level. His 20-7-1 record is deceptive, since many of those losses came on the road, at least four of them being marred by controversy. In fact, only two fighters, Eleider Alvarez and Tommy Oosthuizen, beat him decisively. He gave all the others hell
He has fought most of his career as a lightheavyweight but had no problem dropping down a division later in his career and it is an open question whether he is more effective at the lower weight.
Liebenberg is a fighter, who in his own words, likes to “rawl,” relishing a scrap, which is what made him into a crowd favorite, but he can also box behind the jab when he wants to. Which version of Liebenberg will we see when he steps into the ring?
It would certainly be a late career Cinderella story if Liebenberg can pull it off. “If?” replies his manager/trainer Colin Nathan. “There is no ‘if.’ It is ‘when’ Ryno wins this.”
Undefeated young prospect versus veteran warhorse in a crossroads bout. Two top trainers pitting their fighters against each other. Two warriors who leave it all in the ring.
What is not to like?
The two semi-finals of the cruiserweight tournament entitled “Who will prevail?” will also take place on the same card. Undefeated Akani Phuzi meets an improved Chris Thompson for the third time and Lebo Mashitoa will be out to prove that his upset victory over Keaton Gomes was no fluke when the two clash in a rematch. The eventual tournament winner should be a force to be reckoned with in a star-studded division, snapping at the heels of IBO world champion, Kevin Lerena and Thabiso Mchunu.