After the interest generated by the recent Ryno Liebenberg-Rowan Campbell grudge fight, it has once again become clear that “local is lekker.”
There are many big local fights that can, in theory, be made, but as always boxing politics is in the way of most of them.
The cruiserweights are cooking at the moment, with IBO champion, Kevin Lerena, WBC champion, Ilunga Makabu and WBC silver beltholder, Thabiso Mchunu all in the mix.
Mchunu, once thought to be on the scrapheap, has staged a comeback for the ages. Not only did he reverse his last loss by trouncing Tommy Oosthuizen in a rematch, he went to Russia and won on the road, not once, but twice. First, he beat former IBF and long-time WBA world champion, Denis Lebedev and then, most recently, he gave Olympic gold medalist, Evgeny Tischchenko, a boxing lesson to retain his title.
A fight between him and IBO champion, Kevin Lerena, would certainly do big numbers among local fans but the pair are trained by the Smith brothers, Peter and Sean, respectively. That, coupled with the fact that Mchunu will most likely challenge for the WBC title, makes that fight a no go, at least for now.
Junior middleweight is another weight division that has become interesting of late. There is the breakout star of the 4@War tournament, Brandon Thysse, as well as the third-place winner Roarke Knapp. Both have been on a terrific run as of late, Knapp bouncing back from his defeat against Thysse with a pair of knockout wins over Tristan Truter and Simon Dladla. A rematch would be intriguing but, alas, Golden Gloves has decided to take the pair in separate directions. Both are scheduled to face international opponents on the same card at Emperor’s Palace in June.
Still, one never knows what the future may bring. Pierre Coetzer and Johnny du Plooy were also taken in separate directions back in the day before eventually fighting each other in a local classic.
Emmany Kalombo is another intriguing possibility. Having won all his fights by knockout, the Congolese fighter recently suffered his first defeat against undefeated Uzbek star, Israel Madrimov, losing a decision over ten rounds in front of Madrimov’s home crowd. Still, Kalombo hung in there and landed enough in the second half of the fight to mess up Madrimov’s face, giving the home fighter some uncomfortable moments. His performance caught the attention of promoter, Rodney Berman. “He did well to go the distance, I was impressed by how tough he was. I think he will be a champion someday.”
Kalombo versus Thysse anyone? Nope, that also does not seem likely, both being from the Damien Durandt camp. How will Roarke Knapp do against “The General?” That fight will certainly produce action for as long as it lasts.
One local fight that does look doable is a welterweight showdown between unbeaten Jabulani Makhense and former IBO and current South African champion, Thulani Mbenge. Mbenge has rebounded well from his only loss to Sebastian Formella in Germany, by scoring two wins, a decision over the awkward Mardochee Kuvesa Katembo and a knockout of Mziwoxolo Ndwayana. Makhense looked less than stellar in winning a decision over the same Katembo in his last outing.
Both have something to prove, and fans would love to see who South Africa’s best welterweight really is. Berman likes the idea. “It could turn out to be a terrific fight, almost like Cassius Baloyi against Phillip Ndou.” Before their 2001 encounter, Baloyi was undefeated and Ndou had a single loss. Ndou eventually triumphed in one of the best fights seen on South African soil. If Jabulani Makhense and Thulani Mbenge can put up half of that effort, then this is a fight that should be made.