Arguably the biggest crime in Joburg on Saturday night occurred before 1200 fans who witnessed Poland’s Mateusz Masternak being robbed against Johnny Muller in the main bout.
Muller demonstrated improved skill and great heart, but he was given a boxing lesson by the stronger cruiserweight visitor, who nailed him repeatedly with the right hand and twice had him on the deck.
How the judges could come up with a split decision win in Muller’s favour is one of those great mysteries known only to the vast minds of those at Boxing South Africa. The trouble is boxing will carry on, but the smelly decision will only entrench the view that South African boxing – “home of the hometown decision” – is in trouble.
Scores were 95-93 (Masternak) and 95-93 (Muller), 95-93 (Muller).
Muller had two things in his favour as he contributed to the best fight of the night – his excellent jab and workrate. Both were first class and indicated Muller’s maturity as a fighter.
But Masternak wasn’t ranked number five in the world for nothing. He was appreciably stronger and his knockdowns in the fifth and seventh rounds, forcing Muller to take eight-counts, confirmed his superiority. Although he had to cover up at times, he was never hurt. When he pressed the action he was stronger than Muller and able to pierce his defensive guard.
The South African was cut and bloodied around the left eye late in the fight, but he never let it deter him as he fought with grit. His efforts earned him a couple of rounds, but not nearly enough to outpoint the Pole.
Or so we thought.
Nomeva Scrapes Home
It was nip and tuck all night between Xolisani Ndongeni and Mzonke Fana, with the younger Ndongeni winning a razor-thin majority decision against the veteran former world champion in a scrap for the WBA Pan-African lightweight title – 115-113, 115-113, 114-114.
Opinions were divided at ringside afterwards, but for this correspondent, the faster, busier Ndongeni, now unbeaten in 18 fights, just scraped home against the shrewd, sassy Fana.
It was like a chess match between two contrasting styles: the unorthodoxy and youth of Ndongeni against the wiles and skills of the proud ex-champion.
After an electric start, Ndongeni settled into an easy rhythm, but the trouble was he never quite asserted himself. He was over cautious and boxed within himself, presumably because he gave Fana too much respect.
Even at 41 and with his best years behind him, Fana was in marvellous shape and fought with great ambition (Oosthuizen ought to watch the tape sometime).
Although he threw many punches, Ndongeni’s movement made him a difficult target and he either rode or avoided the many shots that came his way.
It was a tremendous win for Ndongeni, his best to date, and he will have learned many important lessons on Saturday.
Perhaps the most significant moment of all came in the minutes after the fight as Fana warmly embraced and joked with his younger rival. It seemed like a symbolic passing of the baton from a proud old warrior to a proud younger one.
Baby GGG Nails It
Promoter Rodney Berman has long touted Roman Zhailauov as the next “GGG” (Gennady Golovkin).
The 21-year-old did nothing to dispel that impression as he pulverised Luyanda Jako in 154 brutal seconds in the show opener. The baby-faced Kazakh was fast out of the blocks, banging away before two crushing right hands put the South African to sleep.
Jako looked to be in trouble on the canvas and took a long time to recover after being felled by the supremely strong Zhailauov, who effortlessly moved to 15-0 and entrenched his reputation as one of the talents on the rise in the welterweight division.