JOHANNESBURG – Out of the ring for 16 months and with a world of misadventure behind him, Tommy Oosthuizen produced a compelling, thrilling exhibition of boxing to outhustle tough Thabiso Mchunu on points at Emperors Palace on Saturday evening.
In a shrewd battle of style and tactics, it was Oosthuizen who prevailed, winning a majority decision by scores of 115-113 (twice) and 114-114 and earning the ABU cruiserweight championship for his endeavours.
More importantly, he reminded fans exactly what he is capable of when he pursues boxing rather than the bright lights offered elsewhere. He was accurate, up on his toes and whipped out fast shots that hinted at past glories.
Whether he can hang with the heavies of the division is a question for another day, but even as he ate leather in the second half of the fight, he demonstrated sufficient bravery and smarts to overcome a worthy warrior in Mchunu.
Thoughts that Oosthuizen’s style would be all wrong for Mchunu proved on the money, for Mchunu was shorter and while his punches had pop, he was seldom able to close the distance tellingly.
Oosthuizen fought mainly behind his slick southpaw jab and threw a volley of uppercuts in the opening rounds to warn Mchunu of the folly of coming in close.
Strangely, this ploy subsided as the fight wore on and Mchunu would later have success, shooting out jolting jabs and wicked left crosses.
Mchunu started too slowly, which was recognised by the judges, whose four-round scores were announced as 39-37, 40-36 and 38-38.
Undeterred, Mchunu pressed on, working hard inside, but Oosthuizen never hung around long enough for the barrage to take lasting effect.
Oosthuizen had a slight edge after eight (77-75, 77-75 and 76-76) and things were on an even keel.
Mchunu subsequently had success with his jab and left hand, catching Oosthuizen often enough to keep things interesting. But the solid Oosthuizen chin and his East Rand grit proved telling as he happily traded and popped out shots to hamper Mchunu’s rhythm.
The fight was close enough to ensure Mchunu could leave the ring with his head held high, notwithstanding the result. He will come again.
As for Oosthuizen, this was some kind of redemption. Now 30, he could fight on for another five or six years, provided he keeps on the straight and narrow. There’s a potential 2019 showdown with local rival Kevin Lerena, which would be massive, plus any number of cruiserweight match-ups that can be made.
As ever, it all depends on the mood of SA boxing’s bad boy. For now, the charismatic fighter is in credit.
African News Agency (ANA)