The cream of South African boxing will be on show on Saturday when the “Thunder and Lightning” tournament takes place at Emperors Palace.
The full Golden Gloves fight card will be broadcast live on SS7 and SS9 from 7.30pm.
All three headliners feature international opposition with SA light-heavyweight champion Ryno Liebenberg arguably having the toughest task. He will be seeking to avenge a split-decision loss to Enrico Koelling in the German’s back yard last year. This time, Liebenberg has home ground advantage and the support of the crowd who enjoy his rugged style.
It’s a crossroads fight for Liebenberg, who has lost two on the bounce. Another defeat would seriously derail his ambitions of joining the division’s elite.
Kevin Lerena, who made his international breakthrough after winning the Super Four cruiserweight crown last year, has been matched tough against Vikapita Meroro. The Namibian is a spoiler in the best traditions, having hung tough against top fighters who include Juergen Braehmer and Isaac Chilemba.
With almost twice as many fights as Lerena, Meroro will present a tricky challenge to the 24-year-old. Lerena has put pressure on himself by saying he wants to produce an “explosive” performance, but he will also be egged on by a crowd who enjoy the southpaw’s fast hands and charismatic presence.
Meanwhile, Hekkie Budler is back on track after losing his WBA and IBO titles last year.
He has moved up a division and will be engaging in his 15th championship fight as he challenges the Philippines’ Joey Canoy for the vacant IBO light-flyweight belt. The Filipino fight scene is vibrant and their exports tend to perform well on the road. Even so, baby-faced Canoy will be in deep water against Budler, who has matured into a solid pro whose work rate is practically unmatched.
Look out, too, for fast-rising welterweight Thulani Mbenge, the last South African to medal in a major amateur tournament. An explosive puncher, he’ll be looking for a ninth successive stoppage when he fights Ntuthuko Memela, but he’ll likely have it tough against an opponent who also carries significant power.