Big fights stacking up after Saturday’s sizzle

Job done: A triumphant Thabiso Mchunu, moments after KO’ing Richard Bolotnik. Pic: Frennie Shivambu

Knockouts are never a bad thing – if you’re on the winning side.

Promoter Rodney Berman was beaming at Emperors Palace on Saturday, having taken a calculated risk with both Thulani Mbenge and Thabiso Mchunu.

He needn’t have worried. Mbenge boxed like a grizzled pro, all class and power as he dismantled the challenge of Diego Chaves before applying a savage finish.

Mchunu, too, was quick and aggressive as he played the matador to Richard Bolotnik’s bull. He sized him up and wore him down before finishing the Latvian with a cracking right hand to demonstrate he has the power to go with the pizzazz.

Berman is already hard at work trying to craft a mega-tournament to round out the year with both Mbenge and Kevin Lerena defending their IBO championships, ideally on the same card.

“I have to crunch the numbers . . . this doesn’t come cheap,” he said. “They really are drawcards and it was gratifying to see the levels of support for Tulz on Saturday. He brings excitement – that’s what people want.”

Thulani Mbenge on his way to winning the IBO welterweight championship against Diego Chaves at Emperors Palace on Saturday. Pic: Frennie Shivambu

More established is Mchunu’s next outing: a September 1 showdown with Tommy Oosthuizen. It’s a fascinating bout in that it mixes two popular southpaws with vastly contrasting styles and, indeed, personalities. It figures to be one of the best local match-ups of 2018 given that both fighters have their supporters and there’s likely to be animus in the air.

Berman gave kudos to super-middleweight prospect Rowan Campbell, who boxed with authority against Malkhaz Sujashvili, stopping him in the eighth. He took what could have been a difficult assignment and made it look easier by boxing smartly, slowly breaking the Georgian down.

“Much credit to [trainer] Peter Smith who has done a marvellous job with both him and Kevin Lerena,” said Berman. “He’s worked really hard and the fruits of his labour are obvious.”

While the Golden Gloves team will thrash out the big end-of-year assignments, immediate focus swings to August 10’s “Reach for the Stars” tournament, designed to accelerate the new wave, among them Wade Groth and Jay Jay Sonjica, who also produced the goods at the weekend.