There may have been two IBO title fights on the card in Golden Gloves' boxing tournament at Emperors Palace on Saturday night, but for sheer drama it was the first round demise of highly-touted heavyweight prospect Flo Simba that had the 2,000-strong crowd looking on in disbelief.
Promoter Rodney Berman had hailed the likeable, but apparently glass-jawed Simba as potentially the greatest heavyweight hope to emerge from Africa, and a world champion in the making.
But the recent knock-out at the hands of 42-year-old former IBF champion Francois Botha cast doubts about the DRC-born fighter's ability to take a punch.
An overjoyed Danie Venter, who seemed as surprised as anyone with the ease of his victory on Saturday, provided heavier evidence of this fatal shortcoming.
Simba's legs crumbled as though made of jelly after two knock-downs, and although he stuttered to his feet in a vain attempt to continue, the white towel fluttered into the ring from trainer Harold Volbrecht to signify the tko outcome and avoid further punishment.
In contrast to this damp squib, South Africa's never-say-die Hekkie Budler demonstrated awesome courage and staying power to annex the IBO strawweight title with a points victory over Michael Landero of the Philippines.
Relentless effort and a refusal to back off under any circumstances – reminiscent of the fabled Baby Jake Matlala – earned Budler his second IBO title, although his face was bloodied and bruised at the finish.
It was an absorbing, all-action battle and although the decision was ultimately no great surprise, the runaway victory margin of 10 and nine points by the judges may have been worth a place in the Ripley's “Believe it or Not” chronicles.
Landero was hardly marked in the end, in contrast to Budler, but not matter how hard the Filipino tried to keep Budler at bay, the gritty South African bounced back and delivered punches of his own with interest.
In a rousing main and final bout on the bill, Chris van Heerden shaded Kaizer Mabuza for the IBO welterweight title after 12
uncompromising rounds in which no quarter was given or asked by either fighter.
Mabuza, coming up from the junior welterweight division, lost on a majority points decision, but he often rocked Van Heerden with a succession of sweetly-timed punching combinations that would have left less dedicated fighters back on their heels. “I went into the final round praying to someone up there to help me cross the finishing line in front,” Van Heerden said, “and he did.” – Sapa