Thulani Mbenge probably has more riding on the outcome of tomorrow night’s fights at Emperors Palace than any of the other 11 boxers.
The welterweight has ridden the hype train for several years and now, moving into contention for really big fights, must keep winning – and winning well – to crack the nod against the division’s big names.
Mbenge faces Miguel Vasquez, a gnarled pro who should push him hard all night. If the IBO champion produces the goods in style, the plan is to ship him to the US in early 2019. It’s where the real money is and, more importantly, where he can get noticed by the people who matter.
And this is why he must turn it on tomorrow evening. World-class welterweights abound, but those who stand out bring excitement and punching power, qualities Mbenge possesses. Pulling the trigger is a must.
The co-man feature has lashings of intrigue given what went down the first time Tommy Oosthuizen and Thulani Mbenge fought, almost 100 days ago.
The pair engaged in a tremendous tactical battle with Oosthuizen winning a razor-thin decision that left Mchunu and his camp deeply unhappy. For the rematch, Oosthuizen believes he has even more in the tank while Mchunu’s camp insists they have made the adjustments to cause Oosthuizen real problems.
Neither brings heavy artillery to the fight, so another tactical battle looks in store with Oosthuizen’s grit and speed matched against Mchunu’s pressure game. The ABU and SA championship belts will be on the line in this all-southpaw battle.
The other SA championship fight features middleweight holder Wade Groth against Walter Dlamini. Groth will get to work early, relying on his work rate to overwhelm Dlamini, who nonetheless brings experience and a smart head to the showdown.
Meanwhile, Keaton Gomes likes to bang, but could be stretched by the bigger Warren le Roux, who has promised to give it his all in his swansong bout on the undercard.
Other new talents looking to make their mark are Boyd Allen (against Wynand Mulder) and Ricardo Malajika (against Teboho Makwala), who already shows signs of star quality.
Boxing starts at 7.30pm.