Faced with the toughest challenge of his pro career, DeeJay Kriel delivered the goods in emphatic style at Emperors Palace on Sunday, beating determined Dexter Alimento of Philippines via a unanimous points decision.
Mixing up his game and applying constant pressure, Kriel’s accuracy and work rate were too much for the visitor, who came to fight, but fell just short. The WBC International minimumweight title was on the line.
Scores were 116-112, 116-112, 117-111.
Somehow the fighters sustained a terrific pace throughout the 12 rounds with Kriel, especially, producing impressive flurries down the stretch. Alimento relied on his power a little too much, often going for broke in his southpaw attack, efforts that Kriel rebuffed through his high, tight guard.
It was very much a tactical battle, as reflected in the first announcement of scores after the fourth round, as per WBC rules. Two judges had Kriel narrowly up; another had Alimento just ahead.
The fighters flailed away through the middle rounds, Kriel’s sharper punching earning the approval of a boisterous crowd. He had a big eighth round, repeatedly nailing Alimento with his smooth hitting style. There might not have been much power in his punches, but the accumulative effect told: Kriel was comfortably up on all three judges’ cards after eight rounds.
It was more of the same as the fight wound down, Kriel dictating the pace and Alimento attacking every opening. The action swung back and forth to the delight of the crowd, who roared their approval as Kriel was announced the winner.
In the chief undercard bout, Lerato Dlamini was extended by trialhorse Thembani Hobyane, winning a wide decision – 79-72, 79-73, 79=73.
Hobyane proved a tough, game competitor who never stopped coming forward and provided Dlamini with the sort of workout that will prove invaluable down the road.
The crowd kept waiting for Dlamini to pull the trigger, but Hobyane was too gritty for that. He hung tough and even cracked Dlamini hard in the third, momentarily stunning him.
But it wasn’t enough as Dlamini largely controlled the flow of the action and worked hard to secure the win, chiefly in the eighth when he reined in power shots.
Earlier, colourful middleweight Wade Groth looked exciting and entertaining as he bombed Kose Thaba out with a right hand in the second round for his fourth consecutive knockout.
Showing good movement and clever angles, Groth proved he’s worth keeping an eye on in the division.
Trainer Gert Strydom looks to have a good one on his hands in the shape of cruiserweight Chris Thompson. Looking fit and strong, Thompson overwhelmed debutant Tshilidzi Mulaudzi in the second. His body punching was especially damaging and the fight was waved off at precisely the same time as Mulaudzi’s corner threw the towel in.
There was a disappointing end to the junior-welterweight bout between Sebastiaan Rothmann’s prospect Jabulani Makhense and Khodani Tshiakale, who was making his debut. After barely a minute of action, Tshiakale dislocated his shoulder and that was the end of that as Makhense was awarded the unlikeliest of TKO’s.
It was a case of one step forward and two steps back for junior-featherweight Ayabonga “JayJay” Sonjica. The much-touted southpaw predictably won his four-rounder against Alex Lunti, but it was a strangely subdued performance.
It was a fight with too much holding and not enough highlights.