FRANCOIS Botha burst Flo Simba’s bubble when he stopped the young heavyweight in the sixth round at Emperors Palace on Saturday night.
Photo Gallery The bout at the venue near Kempton Park ended sensationally when referee Thabo Spampool intervened 2 minutes 50 seconds into the halfway round.
The 42-year-old “White Buffalo”, who had been on the receiving end of several crushing blows from the 21-year-old upstart, suddenly landed a succession of rights.
Simba went tumbling into the ropes from what looked like a stumble but when he got up he seemed dazed and not ready to defend himself.
It was never supposed to end like that. Botha, who looked well on his way to a beating after the third round, was seen as a has-been and a stepping stone to a world title fight for Simba, touted as the best young heavyweight to emerge from South Africa in years.
But Simba, all fire and fury at the start, soon realised he was not going to get a free ride to victory.
Botha taught him some of the tricks that he had picked up in more than 50 professional fights against famous tradesmen.
Simba was supposed to win in no more than six rounds and move on to a heavyweight title fight. But a few rights down the middle put him on his heels in the first three rounds. He also had to show his ability to take a punch when Botha nailed him in the fourth round.
It proved Simba would have to work on his defence before stepping into the big league. But still everyone was waiting for Botha to be knocked cold.
However, when the senior citizen started banging him around in the sixth, Simba lost more than focus. He lost his unbeaten record, dropping to one defeat and nine stoppage wins in 11 fights.
Botha, who was not tipped by anyone to win the bout, moved on to 48-4-3, with one no-contest and 27 knockout victories.
Simba, an engineering student who was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo but has spent most of his life in South Africa, will have to start rebuilding his career.
He should be a better fighter in his next bout, having learnt from a veteran who had met some of the best heavyweights of his era and once held the IBF heavyweight title.
Botha has been fighting as a professional since the year Simba was born. Over the years, he won the IBF, WBA North America and World Boxing Foundation belts, making a name for himself as “The White Buffalo”.
He had taken on seven heavyweight champions and his only defeats were against Michael Moorer, Mike Tyson, Lennox Lewis, Wladimir Klitschko and Evander Holyfield.
Oosthuizen retains IBO belt
Tommy Oosthuizen retained his IBO super-middleweight belt when he beat 35-year-old William Gare on points – 116-112, 117-111 and 119-110 – over 12 rounds.
The 23-year-old Oosthuizen, making the first defence of his title, was just too tall and too fast around the ring for the crafty veteran.
But the scores do not tell how hard the champion had to work and how many solid punches he took to the head.
The challenger, whose record dropped to 26-15-1, with 14 stoppages, certainly revealed a number of weaknesses in the make-up of Oosthuizen, whose record now stands at 15-0-1; 11.
Gare, a former SA junior middleweight and super-middleweight and WBU middleweight champion, remains a trainer’s delight, with all the skills that many other SA boxers lack.
However, he has lost some hand speed during the past year or three and does not have the reach to keep a tall, fast-moving opponent such as Oosthuizen under pressure for twelve rounds.
He did shake up the champion several times when he got in close enough, particularly in the sixth round when an overhand right took some of Oosthuizen’s confidence away.
The champion sported an ugly cut under the right eye after the seventh round and had to get on his bicycle to stay away from the stalker in front of him.
Oosthuizen, a southpaw who tends to keep his left too low for his own good, won the vacant IBO belt in March this year when he stopped Colombian Evert Bravo in nine rounds.
He has some hard work to do before his next defence.
Oosthuizen weighed 76.70 kg and Gare 76.50.
Van Heerden wins IBO eliminator
Chris van Heerden beat Bongani Mwelase in their IBO welterweight title eliminator, winning by 116-112, 115-113 and 116-113 after an absorbing clash.
The two southpaws gave a splendid exhibition of jabbing, fought nose to nose for most of the bout and displayed hardly any lateral movement as the grudge match turned into a scrap.
Both boxers bled, and both were warned, Van Heerden for talking and Mwelase for a clamping headlock on his opponent.
Neither had the power to win by knockout but Mwelase (66 kg) produced one of the best performances of his career to run the SA welterweight champion closer than the scores indicate.
Many spectators actually believed Van Heerden (66.2 kg) had lost but the decision was unanimous.
Mwelase seemed to take charge for several rounds in the second half of the fight as Van Heerden lost his structure and some of his aggression.
However, the champion finished strongly and improved his record to 16-1-1, with ten knockouts.
Mwelase won a gold medal at the 2006 Commonwealth Games and is a former SA welterweight and junior middleweight and WBF welterweight champion.
A rematch will certainly bring back most of the spectators who saw the bout.
Mohale takes Muller’s title
Johnny Muller lost his SA light-heavyweight title when Tshepang Mohale knocked him out 2 minutes 11 seconds into the third round.
Mohale seemed to be in trouble in the second round but dropped Muller in the third for an eight-count.
He finished the job with another spot-on right to the jaw seconds after the champion had regained his feet.
Referee Wally Snowball did not even pick up the count and Mohale added the belt to his SA super-middleweight title, improving his record to 8-3, with seven knockouts.
Muller dropped to 9-1; 2, having made only one successful defence, and having learnt a few lessons in this bout.
Mchunu edges Venter
Thabiso Mchunu beat Danie Venter on a majority points decision in a heavyweight bout between two former SA junior heavyweight champions.
The scores were 78-74 on two cards and 76-76 in the third. Mchunu improved to 11-0; 9 and Venter slipped to 10-5; 7.
Venter, who should have come in at 98 kg instead of 107.3, did little more than prove that Mchunu is not big enough to compete against top heavyweights.
The man from KwaZulu-Natal weighed 94.5 and was a head shorter than the former Commonwealth Games bronze-medal winner. He did land some solid shots to the head, but would have done better had he aimed at the big body in front of him.
Mchunu, in his first fight in the heavyweight division, looked an accomplished fighter but his handlers should take him back to where he belongs.
One to watch
Bongo Lipemba, a junior lightweight from the Democratic Republic of Congo, gave a crowd-pleasing performance when he stopped Samson Ndlovu in 2 minutes 22 seconds.
Lipemba, an all-action, two-fisted attacker with good balance and power, will gain many supporters if he continues in this fashion.
He came in at 63.50 kg and Ndlovu at 63.40.
Referee David van Nieuwenhuizen did well to intervene before Ndlovu could suffer serious damage.
Rodney Berman, of Golden Gloves Promotions, put together one of the best tournaments in a long time in South Africa and proved that local fighters could draw a sell-out crowd.
Those who watched the action live on SuperSport enjoyed superb entertainment.