Tommy Oosthuizen finally delivered a performance commensurate with his talent as he outboxed and outhustled Ryno Liebenberg to win the vacant IBO light-heavyweight title at Emperors Palace on Saturday night.
In doing so, he put to bed the argument as to SA’s best fighter at the weight and put himself in line for bigger fights internationally. Despite the bad blood in the build-up, the respect between the pair was palpable, particularly at the conclusion when the two had words of encouragement for one another.
Boxing with great rhythm and precision, Oosthuizen won comfortably, although ringside judge Simon Xamlashe unfathomably gave the fight to Liebenberg 115-113. It was a bewildering, eccentric assessment of what had gone before and a stinging indictment on the standards of local officiating.
Fortunately the other judges got it right, both returning cards of 117-111 in Oosthuizen’s favour.
As predicted, the fight was a battle between boxer and fighter, with Oosthuizen’s superior skills ranged against Liebenberg’s fighting heart.
The southpaw looked significantly bigger than Liebenberg and his stiff long-arm jab was a key weapon in his dismantling of the challenger. Liebenberg often tried to draw Oosthuizen in and although Oosthuizen was a willing co-conspirator, he was better served fighting outside.
He threw blistering combinations to which Liebenberg seldom had a suitable response. If there was a downside to his win, it came with Oosthuizen’s showboating, particularly in the fifth. He’s an accomplished fighter who doesn’t need to spoil the show with such antics.
By the seventh round Oosthuizen was getting on top, the crowd roaring “Tommy! Tommy! Tommy” in response.
Liebenberg’s excellent conditioning ensured he seldom took a step backwards and although he showed admirable endeavour, he was unable to come up with a plan to counter Oosthuizen’s speed, angles and workrate.
There was no shame in Liebenberg losing to Oosthuizen and although it marked his second consecutive loss, Liebenberg needn’t be discouraged. His come-forward style makes him appealing to watch and he showed that he can dig with the best in pushing Oosthuizen hard.
On this form, Oosthuizen can hang with any of the division’s elite fighters. The trick, however, is keeping him focused and on track.
MIDDLEWEIGHT WAR ENDS IN A DRAW
Earlier, Dowayne Combrink and Giovanni Bushby carried on where they left off in producing a thrilling draw over 12 rounds for the WBA Pan-Africa middleweight title.
Bushby, trained by the great Vuyani Bungu, had Combrink out on his feet several times, most memorably in the seventh round, but Combrink’s resilience proved telling. Bushby hit him with everything, but Combrink hung tough and enhanced calls for a third showdown between the pair.
The two warriors took turns teeing off against one another, with defence taking a backseat in a riveting battle. Bushby appeared to get the better of the exchanges, revelling in the inside attack while Combrink was most effective boxing at range.
Scores were 116-114 (Combrink), 115-113 (Bushby) and 114-114.
COMMEY ALL CLASS
Commonwealth lightweight champion Richard Commey was all class as he knocked Thompson Mokwana down four times en route to a seventh round TKO.
Tall and rangy with a solid right hand, Commey was barely troubled as he controlled the fight from the off. He had Mokwana down twice in the first round and again in the fourth and fifth, the only blight coming with a couple of stray blows south that earned him a stern warning.
Rated in the IBF top 10, Commey is clearly one of the division’s better operators who sent out a warning that he is the real deal.
SEROKA MAKES DLAMINI QUIT
The less said about Ashley Dlamini’s challenge of Jasper Seroka for the SA junior-lightweight title, the better.
Dlamini quit after a borderline shot to the belt in the seventh round. It was a disappointing end for a fighter who has entertained many Emperors Palace fight fans and sends him straight to the back of the queue.
Seroka established his dominance early, putting Dlamini over in the second round and outworking him for the remainder of the fight.
All considered, it was an outstanding night for local boxing with a capacity Emperors crowd on hand to applaud a compelling tournament that had a little bit of everything.