Boxing Snippets

The stakes are high as battle lines are drawn.

The countdown has begun with the hotly anticipated local showdown between undefeated Rowan Campbell and veteran Ryno Liebenberg scheduled to take place at Emperor’s Palace on the 14th of March.
A wait that seemed to last forever is finally nearing the end. In just over two weeks all the verbal sparring between the camps and fighters will be a thing of the past and we will finally find out whether Campbell is the next big thing or if “The Lion” still roars.
The 12-0 with eight knockouts Campbell will be defending his South African and IBO All-Africa super middleweight titles over 12 rounds against the seasoned 20-7-1 with 13 knockouts Liebenberg, with the vacant WBA Pan African belt also at stake. The crossroads bout represents a significant step up in class for Campbell but it would be nothing new for Liebenberg, who has been in with world class operators and has always given a good account of himself. In fact, his record is deceiving, having been on the wrong end of many a controversial decision on the road.
More than just belts and bragging rights are at stake in the crossroads contest. Should Campbell lose, it will be back to the drawing board for him. A loss at this stage of the 37-year-old Liebenberg’s career will most likely spell retirement.
The fight appears to be one of those “pick ‘em” affairs with the boxing public split down the middle. However, among industry insiders, there seem to be some late money coming in on Liebenberg.
Trainer of Roarke Knapp and Ricardo Malajika, Vusi Mtolo, is leaning towards Liebenberg. “The thing is Campbell is young and Ryno is getting older. Still, Campbell would do well not to underestimate him. Ryno always works very hard in the gym and if you do that, you make the fight easy. I have seen him in sparring against bigger guys and when it gets closer to fight time, he starts pushing them back. It is going to be a very hard fight. It will be tough, but I think Ryno Liebenberg will win.”
Alan Toweel jr, who has been in boxing his entire life, is another insider who is riding with Liebenberg. He names a slew of veteran fighters who sprung upsets toward the end of their careers, including Johnny Muller, who derailed his star fighter, Akani Phuzi, last year. “I personally do not think that Ryno is finished the way they think he is. He is tough, he is hardened and I think he has that little bit extra. He has a big chance here of even stopping Rowan Campbell. If Campbell knocks him out, then he is on the next level, but I have to go with Ryno. Lets’ see what happens.”
Former long reigning South African welterweight champion and veteran trainer, Harold Volbrecht, also emphasizes the youth vs experience factor. “Thing is, Ryno has the experience but Campbell has the youth. Liebenberg is getting to the end of his career. I am not saying he is over the hill, but he is close to the stage where he will not be able to climb the ladder anymore.” Notwithstanding the age factor, Volbrecht still feels that Liebenberg has one last great performance in him. “I think Ryno will pull it off, possibly on points.”
The main event is not the only contest where the stakes are high.
Undefeated 7-0 junior bantamweight, Ricardo Malajika, has failed to impress in his last two outings against Mnqobi Mkhize and Rofhiwa Nemushungwa, but has since made the move to new trainer, Vusi Mtolo, who has worked wonders with Roarke Knapp. He will be facing the upset minded Sabelo Ngebinyana in an eight rounder.
Mtolo is excited about his new charge. “There is something special about him, just like Hekkie Budler. He gets knocked down, but he gets up and wins the fight at the end of the day. Up until now, he has gotten by on his speed, just doing things without thinking. We are getting him to concentrate more on his opponents so he can adjust. Also, we are improving his technique and power.”
Although nothing is official, promoter Rodney Berman would dearly like to make an IBO world title fight with Gideon Buthelezi later this year. If, however, Malajika comes apart at the hands of Ngebinyana, that dream will remain just that.
Ditto for Lodumo Lamati.
The former South African and IBF Intercontinental champion takes on Said Mohamed Hassan in an eight round junior featherweight bout. On paper the fight should not present any problem, Lamati having defeated Hassan before, but as we have seen in an upset filled 2021, the “easy” fights can often turn into the most slippery of banana skins. Golden Gloves has an IBO world title fight lined up for Lamati in June against Jose Martin Estrada Garcia, so it is essential that the man they call “9mm” ensures that everything goes according to plan.

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