The Parade of Champions staged at the Wembley Arena in Johannesburg on Friday night was a success, but still raised issues surrounding matchmaking and the way forward for a fighter once he is an International titleholder. Surely sanctioning bodies who offer these titles should have a natural course which leads to these men receiving world title opportunities. If not, what’s the point of having them?
The main event of the evening which featured four WBC international titles and one WBA intercontinental title fight saw Masibulele “Hawk” Makepula flexing his muscles in what was nothing more than an entertaining interlude while waiting for a world title opportunity.
Makepula, 28-3 (18), was all business as the bell rang for the start of his WBC International super flyweight title defense against national French champion Christophe Rodrigues, 13-2-13 (2). While the challenger looked excited at the opportunity he was being given, the champion looked annoyed that he was being made to show his wares against a fighter who on paper had no business being with him in the ring.
A short right had the Frenchman down in the first round and from the second he started being more cautious around the South African. Rodrigues did show that he was a plucky fighter and clearly wanted to put up a good performance against his world-rated opponent. Makepula landed crisp body blows and when the Frenchman’s defense showed the slightest gap, he banged blows through to his head. Rodrigues has good hand speed and while he doesn’t throw punches with authority he does throw a lot of them.
Makepula continued to work the challenger’s body in the fourth round, every punch thrown with conviction. Rodrigues moved well and tried to escape the onslaught with good footwork and mobility around the ring. Despite carrying less firepower it was the challenger who was standing in front of his man in the fifth round. He carried his hands high and Makepula was reluctant to go on the attack. Makepula landed a few good blows, but it was clear he had no interest in boxing his man. He wanted to stop him and that was his prime concern.
The challenger ran away for the most of the seventh round, with Makepula landing a few blows when the opening was there. In the eighth the champion stormed down onto his man and pummeled him. The challenger came back well, however, and the two boxers stood toe-to-toe throwing fast and furious blows at each other in a fight which was turning into an entertaining affair. A trickle of blood ran from the challenger’s nose, but he was still pumped for the fight.
Makepula showed no signs of fatigue and looked as fresh as he did in the first round as he started the ninth. The two warriors were again in each other’s faces throwing blows continuously. At the end of the round the two men shared a smile as they too were now enjoying their fight. Good sportsmanship is seldom seen in the ring these days, so it was quite refreshing to see the men having fun out there.
Makepula continued to dominate the last three rounds, almost playing with his opponent in the last round as a cat plays with his prey. Rodrigues to his credit did keep up the pace and was clearly doing his best against a man that is just in another league. The Frenchman is an entertaining boxer and put up a good show. The judges scored it 119-108, 119 -108, 119-108 all for the champion.
“Fernando Montiel wants to come to South Africa to face Hawk,” said Makepula’s trainer Nic Durandt after the fight. “We just need to get sponsorship in line and we can do it. Makepula’s not going to get any better. He’s been world champion material for the last five years and he can fight as well as his opponent lets him. Montiel’s the sort of guy who’ll come here and hold out his chin for Hawk and we’ll stop him.”
Makepula, who looked in fine form in this exhibition, isn’t too fussy who he faces next: “WBC, IBF, WBA or WBO, I’ll be happy to fight any of them. I just want a world title now. I’ll be thankful for any opportunity which comes my way.” These sentiments add fuel to my earlier question of what is the point of the International titles. Makepula is a good WBC International champion, yet the WBC may well lose him to the WBO or another sanctioning body, without him ever receiving the opportunity of fighting for their world title. If that’s the case what’s the point of the International titles? Or are they just smoke being blown in the faces of those who hold them?
Other fights on the bill saw Gabula Vabaza retain his WBA Intercontinental bantamweight title against Chilean national champion Moises Gutierrez over 12 rounds. The fight lacked any fireworks and Vabaza’s camp needs to reexamine the way forward. Vabaza is a great talent, but has been without fireworks since claiming this title. What’s the problem?
As predicted, Vusi Malinga retained his WBC International bantamweight title in an uninspiring 12 rounder against Russian Andre Kostin. A Malinga-Vabaza matchup could be an interesting affair. Malinga has the punching power to bring out the best in the WBA Intercontinental champion and if these titles do not unlock a pathway to a world title what difference would it make if the both relinquished theirs?
Tshepo Lefela failed to impress his critics when he got stopped in the seventh round by Gabireil Pumar of the Philippines, to lose his WBC International strawweight title. While dominating the first three rounds, Lefela was down in the fifth, sixth and seventh rounds. Lefela too has promise, but needs to get back to the basics of boxing.
Rated by many as the fight of the night, Mhikize Myekeni beat Benedict Suico over 12 rounds to retain his WBC International flyweight crown. The scheduled WBC International featherweight title fight between Jeffrey Mathebula and Mercito Gesta was dropped from the bill following Gesta failing his medical prior to the fight.
In other action, Nkosani Joyi, 14-0 (10) retained his national flyweight title in East London on Saturday night with a first round stoppage over Thulani Ndyamara, whose record dropped to 5-4-4 (4).
Who will win the Sergey Kovalev vs Andre Ward fight?