Boxer vs. puncher matchups usually deliver entertaining encounters, and the South African junior flyweight title bout between Muvhuso Nedzanani (13-1-2, 8 KOs) and Vuyani “Pretty Boy” Kheswa (14- 2-1, 3 KOs) which took place this past Friday at Nasrec in Johannesburg was no exception.

Kheswa, a former national champion started well and took the first round by moving forward and throwing solid well placed jabs to the face of the champion. Although Kheswa is not known for his punching power, the champion resorted to a crouching style in an attempt to shy away from the incoming punches. He did manage to catch the challenger with a clean right hook, but it had little effect on a confident looking Kheswa.

The second round continued as the first with the champion looking out of place and uncertain of what strategy to employ in this the second defense of his crown. He must have received a tongue-lashing in the corner, because when he came out for the third he looked a lot more determined. He backed Kheswa off with solid right hooks and also staggered him with a beautifully timed left hook which had the challenger’s mouthpiece tottering on the rim of his lips.

Kheswa, who is the more skilled boxer, clearly felt the power behind the champion’s punches, as he adopted a cautious approach in the fourth round. Instead of taking the initiative which won him the first two rounds, he waited for the champion to throw punches and merely countered. This encouraged Nedzanani, who grew in confidence as the bout continued, and started looking a smoother fighter than he did at the start of the fight. Kheswa did throw some good combinations and also landed well, but it was clear his blows had little power.

In the fifth, Kheswa had shellshock and adopted the rabbit staring at the lights of the oncoming vehicle approach. This allowed the champion to hit with more authority; the challenger looked as though he could be en route to visiting the canvas for the first time in his career. In the sixth he was staggered by a solid straight left. Although he was hurt he was able to get out of trouble by clinching and then moving away from the champion and keeping him at bay with his left jab.

While the challenger threw a few more punches than he had been doing, the champion continued to move forward in the seventh round and was fully in control of proceedings. Both men were showing signs of fatigue in the eighth. Kheswa showed some good heart in standing up to the champion, but Nedzanani continued to land and on a regular basis.

Nezanani had the challenger in trouble in the first minute of the tenth round and landed a series of big blows to his head. The referee brought relief to Kheswa by calling a halt to replace the challenger’s mouthpiece which fell out during the action. This was unfortunate as the champion was in full swing and the referee should have waited for a lull in the action. When the fight continued the champion landed more solid punches, but the challenger had sufficiently recovered to absorb the blows.

The challenger was again staggered in the eleventh by a left and right hook, and going into the twelfth it was clear the only hope he had to claim a victory was if he could conjure up a knockout blow from his depleted arsenal. The challenger continued to eat leather in the last round however. To his credit he did still throw counterpunches, but with no real effect. The referee, who looked out of his depth in this fight, made another blunder towards the end of the round as he stopped the action to give the challenger a standing 8-count, even though there was no knockdown and that South African rules do not allow standing 8-counts in national title fights.

His actions didn’t influence the end result, however, and judges scored the bout 117-112, 120-109, and 116-111 in favour of Nedzanani.

“I was fighting for respect tonight,” said Nedzanani. “Kheswa did not respect me, so I needed to teach him a lesson.”

“The fight was tough,” said Kheswa. “He was ready for me. I could see that by the way he controlled the fight. I was a little confused and wasn’t fighting my usual fight.”

While Kheswa has skill, he absorbed a lot of punishment in this fight, and it’s a concern that his corner was not able to get him focused on the strategy he needed to follow against a limited yet heavy hitting opponent. Hats off to Nedzanani, however. He grew throughout the bout, kept focused and did the job. At only 23 years of age, this fighter could do well if properly groomed and certainly has potential as a banger in the junior flyweight division.

In the main supporting bout middleweight prospect Kgotso Motau (7-0, 7 KOs) again displayed his potential as a future draw-card. He stopped Canneth Masekwane (9-3) in the 5th round. Motau had previously dropped Masekwane in the first round, but was unable to capitalize early on. Masekwane is a wily boxer himself, though, and it was expected that he would extend the former Olympian. Although Motau does have impressive punching power, he looks limited on defense and his style is more that of a heavyweight than a middleweight.

Former super middleweight contender Soon Botes (24-10, 13 KOs) made a comeback to the ring as a light-heavyweight against Patrick Madzinga (6-12-1). Botes, who has squared off against the likes of Anthony Mundine, Robin Reid, Dingaan Thobela, Mads Larsen and Norbert Nieroba, stopped Madzinga in two rounds. He previously held the national super middle and light heavyweight titles.