Festival of Boxing Looms at Emperors Palace

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The countdown to the SuperSport festival of boxing at Emperors Palace has begun after an exclusive press briefing in Johannesburg was held on Tuesday.
An array of boxers, prominent personalities and media were in attendance as Rodney Berman and Brian Mitchell gave the lowdown on the two tournaments – “Showstoppers” on April 23 and “Hurtin’ for Certain” on June 10.
The first event is topped by the SA welterweight championship between Shaun Ness and Thulani Mbenge with the winner touted to fight WBO number 15 Jay Inson later in the year. The fight will be for Mbenge’s ABU crown.
The DeeJay Kriel-Xolisa Magusha fight also has people talking, among them Berman, who believes that the winner will become the heir apparent to Simpiwe Konkco.
He’s also matched house fighter Lucky Monyebane against Ashley Dlamini for the Gauteng title and makes no bones about his affection for Monyebane, who is the product of a partnership between Golden Gloves and the Hammanskraal community where Monyebane hails from.
In a curious twist, four former SA amateur champions will all box on the undercard, among them highly-touted Ricky Tshabalala, in what is surely a first for SA boxing. Berman added that Kevin Lerena would fight on the same bill given the issues he is having travelling to the US next month. The anticipated change means it will most likely be a keep-busy fight rather than a top-level one. The cruiserweight will then definitely fight in the US on Boo Boo Andrade’s undercard in June.

Having been repeatedly prodded by Johnny Muller about a third fight between the pair – they are one win apiece – Lerena said he was chasing down bigger names. He did, however, offer a glimmer of hope, saying that in the event of him winning a belt, he would give Muller a fair crack.

“For now,” he quipped, “if it doesn’t make money, it doesn’t make sense.”

Berman also revealed that Xolisani Ndongeni would probably fight on a Western Cape tournament in late May to keep the cobwebs from setting in. He, too, ought to get his crack in the US before long.

The June tournament is headlined by Thabiso Mchunu against Johnny Muller, a fight that has all the hallmarks of a terrific South African scrap. Muller is truly at the crossroads. A win would resuscitate his flagging career, but a loss would be catastrophic.

Muller said that as a light-heavyweight his style was to “pik pik” (tap tap) his opponents, but he vowed to hit far harder at cruiserweight, as he must if he hopes to defeat Mchunu.

Mchunu also needs to show something special if he is to rebound from his title setback against Oleksandr Usyk. The ABU belt will be on the line, too, so there’s much to fight for between the cruiserweights.

IBO boss Konkco will also feature, against Lito Donte, all part of Berman’s grand design of making the South African the leading strawweight in the world.

The SA man will have his work cut out for him. At the weekend Donte put paid to Jay Loto’s unbeaten run with a 12-round beatdown for the WBC International title in Manila.

Another top match-up pits SA super-middleweight champion Lee Dyer against Alfonso Tissen for the ABU title.

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