Dlamini stretched on way to WBC glory

Lerato Dlamini, left, is the aggressor against Sydney Maleleku during their well-matched but for the WBC International featherweight title at Emperors Palace on Sunday. Pic: N-SQUARED

What seemingly began as a timid sparring session quickly became a test of dominance and perseverance between Lerato “Lights Out” Dlamini and Sydney “Skeleton” Maluleka at Emperors Palace on Sunday afternoon.

Fighting for the vacant WBC International featherweight title, they began the fight with the mood of familiarity, a rhythm that changed quickly as both fighters suddenly seemed to realise what was at stake.

The beginning of the match saw Maluleka widening his stance to accommodate Dlamini’s height – much to his detriment, however. Throughout the fight he mimicked Dlamini’s height and Dlamini took advantage of it. Finding his technical groove as the fight went on, Dlamini began landing powerful combos. Maluleka continually disregarded the potency of his reach and struggled to prise open Dlamini’s defence.

Making sure to dance his way out of Dlamini’s reach, Maluleka held his chin and kept his energy up from beginning to end. Crucially, Maluleka had a point deducted for holding in the ninth while Dlamini landed a cracker of a punch in the 10th, catching Maluleka off guard. These were seemingly small moments but perhaps what made all the difference at the conclusion.

Dlamini seemed gassed in the middle but got a burst of energy from somewhere as the 12th round loomed, making a critical difference. The final round saw Maluleka clipping Dlamini, but he managed to recover and go on to win.

Both fighters stood their ground throughout and the points reflected that. The WBC’s fourth-round tally had Maluleka in the lead where the eighth had it at 76 points for each fighter. Finally, a split decision was rendered for Dlamini to become WBC International featherweight champion – a result that the fight fans seemed happy with.

Michael Markram Vs Karabo Mokupi

The first undercard fight of the evening proved how no amount of training can fully prepare anyone for a match against a formidable opponent.

Michael Markram versus Karabo Mokupi exploded with energy and had just the right amount of recklessness to keep fans on edge.

Markram seemed quite stiff as Mokupi quickly loosened up and danced wildly around the ring. Mokupi had a nervous energy about him that distracted him from the technical aspects of the match. He took good punches from Markram and absorbed them well. They seemed to learn from each other as the match wore on, Markram getting better with his footwork and Mokupi landing cleaner, more strategic punches. Good punches were thrown but many opportunities for telling combinations were missed. The bout ended with a unanimous win for Markram as he brought those missing combos to the final round.

Julian Cooke vs Antonelle Maree

With an apprehensive opening, Cooke and Maree began by exchanging powerful, slow, precise punches. Tall and slender (or as slender as a cruiserweight can be), Maree used good fight tactics against Cooke, the shorter, stockier figure. It was clear that Cooke needed to land a solid overhand right to counter Maree’s height advantage that Maree was wasting.

The third round saw effective blocking from Cooke before he delivered exactly what the crowd was waiting for. Cooke threw the anticipated overhand right just over a minute into the third round putting Maree down and earning Cooke his first pro win as the referee awarded him the TKO.

Earlier, Leron Myles against Moses Byla began quickly with a high energy that wasn’t sustainable. Moses came out fast and furious, but the misuse of energy and lack of focus was to Byla’s demise as Myles knocked him down. Byla recovered quickly, but not completely. Shortly after recovering, Myles waited for the right moment to strike again and struck Byla down for good, resulting in the second TKO of the day.

The legacy fight between Marcel Botha and Wynand Mulder was bound to be a cracker from the moment it was announced and the smack talk began. Both fighters come from families with a heavy boxing culture.

Living up to a reputation like that of his father, Francois ‘The White Buffalo’ Botha, was always going to be tough for Marcel while Mulder was just looking to finish “what he started” as a torn tendon had kept him away from the ring for a while. There was a lot for both fighters to prove and Mulder proved it in the first 42 seconds of the fight. Mulder knocked Botha down and even though the ref cleared Botha initially, Mulder came back to land numerous punches until the ref had to put a stop to it.

Replacing Lucky Monyebane at the last minute, Anthony Maloisane stepped up to the challenge of facing Sibusiso Zingange. In an eight-round bout, we saw even punches exchanged and blocked.

The pair were so evenly matched that it sometimes felt like a shadow-boxing exercise. The fight lacked focus as the fighters threw punches wildly. A few decent shots were landed between the two but none with the power to do any real damage. It got cleaner as the fighters found their rhythm, though.

The final round saw the fighters go hard and give it their all. More clinching and wild punches later, the “wrestling” match came to an end, resulting in a majority draw.

With three decisions, an outright stoppage and a pair of TKO’s, this was an explosive event that lived up to the hype.