Johnny Muller is back.
The former SA light-heavyweight champion had to survive a horror fifth round, however, as he struggled to overcome the game challenge of Donald Kampamba of Zambia at Emperors Palace last night.
Muller won a unanimous decision by scores of 77-73, 77-74 and 76-74.
The South African boxed superbly for the first four rounds, throwing good combinations and counter-punching to effect against an awkward, ungainly opponent.
While he was winning without dominating, his world threatened to unravel in the fifth when he was dumped on the seat of his pants from a strong left. After taking an eight-count, he was promptly sent to the deck again, this time from a right hand.
Thereafter, it was the Muller of old: bloodied, with a leaky defence and slugging away. Fortunately for him Kampampa had no real idea how to capitalise on his good fortune and Muller was able to evade harm’s way.
An exciting undercard saw unbeaten southpaw Adam De Moor overcome a stomach upset to beat awkward Emanuel Ndou via TKO in the fourth. De Moor was somewhat off his best, but he took the opening late in the fight to overcome Ndou with a series of punishing body shots.
Warren Joubert was made to work hard against Koos Sibiya and while the eight-rounder concluded with a draw, opinion at ringside was that Sibiya had shaded the affair.
In probably the most impressive performance on Jeff Ellis’ “Christmas Cracker” tournament, heavyweight debutant Kevin Lerena showed fast hands as he overwhelmed Justice Salinga in two.
Confident and composed, Lerena stalked his man before dropping the bomb in the second. Salinga was put down twice and smartly avoided humiliation by staying down after a punishing flurry from the southpaw.
In welterweight action, Zane Mundell lost the first round, but came back nicely to blast Shaun Ness out in the second, a right hand doing the damage.
In the opening bout, Zan Jonker moved to 6-0 with a majority decision against Keith Nkosi. It wasn’t the best of nights for Zonker, who struggled to find his range, but he still had too much against the game Keith Nkosi.
MEANWHILE, the Emperors action will pick up again when Golden Gloves stages “Malice at the Palace” in March.
Promoter Rodney Berman is toying with the idea of matching Joey Stiglingh against Sipho Taliwe, while Flo Simba will also be back in action at cruiserweight.
“It’s going to be a great start to the year,” said Berman, who on Saturday stages his final tournament in Makapanstad.