Johannesburg – There was an unexpected scare at Friday's weight-in for the “Last Man Standing” boxing bill at Emperors Palace when Tommy Oosthuizen was more than 1.5 pounds over his prescribed weight limit.
The much-vaunted IBO super middleweight champion was given two hours to sweat off the excess weight and meet the 168 pound limit for Saturday night's title defence against Colombian Fulgenico Zuniga.
Oosthuizen would defend his title for the sixth time against 35 year-old veteran Zuniga in a homecoming bout following the South African's victory against Rowland Bryant in New York.
It is a fight Oosthuizen dare not lose, with a lucrative programme already lined up for him when he returns to the United States early next year.
“Fighting in America has been a real eye-opener,” said Oosthuizen, “but there is nothing like hearing the buzz and getting into the ring in front of you own fans as a motivator.”
The durable, but ageing Zuniga is seemingly a hand-picked opponent for South Africa's fast-rising champion.
Despite a commendable career record of 25 wins and five defeats, Zuniga has lost two of his last four fights, with the victory over an opponent ranked 59th by the IBO his best result during the twilight of his career.
Despite the presence of two IBO title fights involving South Africans, the six-bout programme is headed by an intriguing finale to Golden Gloves innovative “Super Eight” series.
A revived Danie Venter and the destructive Thabiso “The Rock” Mchunu defied the odds and accounted for the pre-tournament favourites and will face each other for the R300 000 “Last Man Standing” winners' purse.
The winner will be crowned the African Boxing Union's cruiserweight champion and represent the continent when the WBC stage their version of a World Cup, in which all the continents with affiliation to the organisation will be represented.
“It is truly a fight in which you could spin a coin to determine the winner,” said Golden Gloves publicist Brian Mitchell.
“Venter and Mchunu have totally different styles and they can both punch. For sure their fight will not be a tepid affair. It's going to be explosive.”
Trainer Harold Volbrecht was afforded the opportunity of bringing off a double in the IBO title fights on Saturday night, not only as Oosthuizen's long-time mentor, but also recently adding junior bantamweight challenger Gideon Buthelezi to his stable.
Buthelezi, a former IBO champion in a lower division, would be up against The Philippines' Edrin Dapudong for the IBO junior bantamweight title.
An uncharacteristic element of modesty in pre-tournament verbal sparring replaced the more traditional boxing ballyhoo.
Instead of the more familiar and provocative sentiment, the general tone of the fighters was that they would do the talking in the ring.
This was shared by visiting boxers Dapudong and Zuniga, who had little more to say than that they were delighted to be in South Africa.
Also on the Emperors bill is a bout between South Africa's fast-rising, unbeaten Rayno Liebenberg and Zambia's Donald Kampamba for the IBO's All Africa light heavyweight title. – Sapa