After their memorable battle in Germany in October, light-heavyweight contenders Ryno Liebenberg and Enrico Koelling will engage in a much-awaited rematch at Emperors Palace Casino on February 4.
Confirming the news on Thursday, Golden Gloves boss Rodney Berman and Kalle Sauerland of Team Sauerland said that agreed terms included the German fighter travelling to Liebenberg’s back yard to prove the first result was no fluke.
Koelling (22-1, 6 KOs) won a split decision that infuriated the South Africans’ camp, who vowed revenge in the event of a rematch.
“We moved heaven and earth to get this done,” said Berman. “I must credit Koelling for his sportsmanship in agreeing to the rematch. We might have complained, but he was under no obligation to fight Ryno a second time. Naturally, we are delighted he said yes.”
Berman agreed to the Germans’ demands for a German judge to go alongside a South African official and a neutral official to ensure potential claims of bias have no basis.
Liebenberg (17-4, 12 KOs) has been bristling ever since the referee raised Koelling’s arm at the Jahnsportforum in Neubrandenburg, telling supporters to watch the video on YouTube to decide for themselves.
After going unbeaten in his first 16 fights, Liebenberg’s venture into top 10 territory has been fraught with what-might-have-beens with three of his four defeats coming narrowly on points – all away from home.
“I feel great about the rematch,” said Liebenberg. “Credit to Enrico for sticking to his word about the rematch. I’m thrilled it’s taking place in South Africa. I would have gone back to Germany, but the travel is lousy.
“He’s very strong and has good ring generalship. The way he handles himself is very composed and his defence is outstanding – he blocks you everywhere.”
But Liebenberg believes the rematch will be much different.
“I’m gonna show the guy who I really am. I told Koelling on Instagram, I’m not gonna run. I’m a superior boxer . . . I’m stronger, fitter, faster and I throw more punches. This time he’ll meet the real Ryno.”
Koelling, ranked number five by the IBF and number 11 by the WBA and WBO, has enjoyed a charmed ride as a professional. Among the belts he has won are the vacant WBO Youth light-heavyweight title and the WBA Inter-Continental light heavyweight title.
All of his fights have taken place in Europe and this will be his first fight beyond the Continent.
“It’s in my nature to be a good sportsman and that’s why I directly offered Ryno a rematch in South Africa via Facebook,” Koelling revealed. “I know that it’s a lot tougher to fight abroad – you are not just fighting against an opponent but the crowd which may very well influence the judges to some extent, but I am ready to do this. I don’t want people to say that I’m just a hometown fighter and afraid to cross boarders but rather fighting the best all over the world. That’s what real champions are doing.
“I watched the first fight on tape again, re-scoring it. With some distance, I still feel I notched it by two or three rounds. The first six rounds were all mine as I set the pace and had by far the more telling blows with Ryno barely finding an opening. Then I became very passive and Ryno took over until the championship rounds and those were level.
“Ryno is a showman and after our bout I expected him to complain about the decision. It’s his character not to admit a loss in such a hotly-contested clash.”
Kalle Sauerland, representing Koelling, said: “’Enrico is a man of his word and a true sportsman. The first fight was close, and we believe Enrico did enough to deserve the nod, but he offered Ryno the rematch, and he’s stayed true to his word. Now, Enrico must travel to South Africa and enter the lion’s den, and the fans can look forward another exciting 12 rounds of action.