Ever a man to take the rough with the smooth, promoter Rodney Berman had reason to be quietly satisfied this weekend.
Three of his four top fighters scored wins of varying degree and the mood among the big crowd was buoyant; boxing appears to be on the up.
Hekkie Budler looked accomplished in coping with the unorthodox wiles of Joey Canoy of the Philippines. He took a while to settle down, made critical adjustments and then hit really hard to put the brakes on the challenger’s title bid.
As he has done so often in the past, Berman will now attempt to lure one of the other title-holders into a unification match. Such efforts are usually fraught with pitfalls, not least absurd financial demands, but Berman will try his utmost to make such a fight happen. Failing that, he will manoeuvre Budler into a mandatory position to force one of the champions’ hands.
It was also job done for Kevin Lerena against the spoiling, niggly Vikapita Meroro, who quit rather than suffer the indignity of getting knocked out by the cruiserweight. Berman said that his negative attitude had been triggered the moment he felt Lerena’s power in the first round, after which Meroro adopted safety-first tactics. This is a fine thing to do for self-preservation, less so when trying to win a fight.
“Lerena marches on,” said Berman on Sunday. “Next stop will be the US in April or May.”
His stablemate, Thulani Mbenge, dealt with Nthutheko Memela with almost ridiculous ease, putting him away in the third round of their welterweight encounter. It now appears inevitable that Mbenge will be rushed headlong into a SA title challenge against Shaun Ness.
“He’s an outstanding prospect, but fights like a slick veteran,” marvelled Berman. “If he can beat Ness we’ll hit the international road with him.”
Unfortunately crowd-pleasing Ryno Liebenberg is at the crossroads after dropping a decision to Enrico Koelling. It was the sort of fight that could have gone either way, but Liebenberg lacked the tools to dominate in any single area.
He fought gamely, but, unable to hurt the German, he had to try and outbox a man whose defence was up to the task.
The SA light-heavyweight champion will now take a break before contemplating whether or not he wants to fight on.