Former champ predicts big things for prodigy Makhense

Jabulani Makhense and trainer Sebastiaan Rothmann. Pic: Nick Lourens

Sebastiaan Rothmann has been around the boxing block. Several times.

So, when the former cruiserweight champion says that Jabulani Makhense is special, it’s best to listen up.

“The last time I saw someone with this much talent was 15-odd years ago with Mzukisi Sikali,” said the Pretoria-based trainer, who will work Makhense’s corner when he fights Gift Bholo for the Gauteng junior-lightweight title at Emperors Palace on October 21.

Rothmann isn’t in the habit of dishing out praise, but he enthuses about what Makhense brings to the ring.

“He has an exceptional eye, great balance and hand speed. Importantly, he’s also a very calm guy; he doesn’t get rattled and this is one of his best attributes. He spars far stronger Congolese guys and sums up the challenge very quickly. He can punch, too, although he’s not a one-punch KO artist – it’s the angles that gets the guys.”

Jabulani Makhense, left, on his way to ending the unbeaten run of Siya Mabena two months ago. Pic: N-Squared

Makhense has run up a perfect 5-0 ledger since turning pro in 2016. In that time, he’s also managed to turn the eye of Rodney Berman.

“Yes, he looks to be quite special,” says the promoter. “His fight management is excellent and he’s very poised. He just has that look; the look of someone who can go far.”

As this will be Makhense’s first 10-rounder, it is new territory for the 25-year-old. But he will approach the bout as he always does: he’ll take a round or two to sum up his opponent and then move into overdrive in a bid to dictate the pace.

“The guy who does that,” says Rothmann, “will be the guy who gets the ‘W’.”

Makhense was a standout amateur, a career highlighted by a bronze medal at the Commonwealth Youth Games.

Rothmann believes that this fight is his boxer’s moment to make “a bit” of a statement, and to separate himself from the other prospects who abound.

Talent aside, one other thing Makhense has on his side is temperament and attitude. He earns his daily crust working at a gym, and then does the taxi run. Some days, he misses the taxi. When that happens, he shrugs and then hits the road, routinely running from Pretoria to Centurion.

“He’s unbelievably hungry,” says Rothmann, determined to add polish to the power and poise of one of SA boxing’s best hopes.

Look out for him on October 21.