Joseph “Smoking Joe” Makaringe made the tenth successful defense of his national welterweight title with a 5th round TKO over Phumlani Menziwe on Friday night. Makaringe, 29-2 (24 KOs), who also holds the WBC international welterweight title, has an awkward looking style, and Menziwe, 8-4 (7 KOs), looked the better man up until the finish.

The challenger, who only fought once last year, looked the more composed and balanced fighter from the outset. He adopted a strategy of fighting from the outside and landed good blows to the champion’s head. He carried his left hand low, but Makaringe never took advantage of that. The champion did however land his jab with ease and while he absorbed the challenger’s punches with little effect, Munziwe did not enjoy feeling the leather in his face.

In the third round Menziwe was dropped by a low blow. While the challenger agreed to continue without using the five minute recovery, it was clear that the challenger was not comfortable to do so. He kept looking away from his opponent and the champion landed some clear headshots at the tail of the round. Menziwe did do enough to claim the first three rounds on the scorecards though, and a slight whiff of an upset started permeating the air.

It turned out to be short-lived however as the champion came out with a lot more determination on his face in the fourth round. The referee again warned Makaringe for a low blow and told him that he didn’t want to deduct a point from him. He then encouraged the challenger to continue. Menziwe landed some solid blows to Makaringe, but could not follow up as the champion sent them back with interest. The challenger’s focus was broken and it looked now to only be a matter of time before the end would come.

The fifth round started with Makaringe landing another blatant low blow, which was ignored by the referee, instead he commented about a clash of heads and said the challenger should continue because he’s strong. The challenger continued looking outside of the ring, probably feeling that he was up against two men in the ring.

Makaringe caught the challenger with a big left and seeing that he had his man in trouble he went for the kill. Although he landed a few blows in an untidy attack, he never landed clean again. The champion missed with a right and when pulling his arm back he accidentally his man with an elbow to the back of his head. Menziwe turned his back and walked to his corner. Makaringe gave chase and landed two right uppercuts to his opponent before the referee stepped in. The referee asked Menziwe if he wanted to quite and he said yes.

“I just wanted to make my tenth defense.” said Makaringe after the fight “That was all I was fighting for. As you can see I’ve got nothing left to prove, not only on the local front but Internationally as well. There are some good fighters out there but their problem is is that they have no heart. You catch them with a few blows and they give up. Menziwe is a good boxer but he has no courage.”

Queried about the low blows, Makaringe answered; “I wasn’t looking to land those blows. I was trying to work his stomach to slow him down.” Menziwe had a lump on the right side of his forehead following the fight. When asked why he quit he said that he was feeling dizzy going into the fifth round and felt he couldn’t continue.

All in all it was another unsatisfying end and unconvincing win by Makaringe. He may feel that he has no peers in South Africa, but if that’s true then we have no good Welterweights locally. He has the record and two titles, but his career is hanging in on borrowed time. He looked inferior to a smaller man with shorter reach and very little experience. Getting a win is fine for the record books, but if its unattractive and without heat then who wants to watch it. He did win and there may be smoke, but there’s no fire here.

“His handlers will now try to secure him a world title fight,” said former IBO junior lightweight world champion Philip Ndou, “but the welterweight division has some really good talent at the moment and if he gets a shot, it will merely be a case of him going to collect a paycheck. He’s admitted himself that he has limited abilities and I don’t think he could upset the big boys of the division.”

In the main supporting bout, South Africa’s prospect of the year 2005, Kgotso Matau; 8-0 (8 KOs) again displayed some fierce-some punching power when he easily demolished Christopher Buthelezi; 14-12-1 (5 KOs) in two rounds. Matau a former Olympian is fast developing into a fan favourite and hopes are high that he will be carving his name in the history of the middleweight division.

To date six of his eight knockout wins have come in the first round and he has never been extended. Matau did drop Buthelezi in the first round with a big straight left. Buthelezi rose to his feet, but was back on the canvass following a quick left right combination. He was under fire when the bell rang to single the end of the round and had it been a few seconds later, he probably would have been down again.

A big right uppercut followed by a short straight left had Buthulezi down at the start of the second round. He remained on the seat of his pants for the full count. Matau is a tall well built middleweight with fast hands and solid punching power in both fists. He certainly is worth keeping an eye on, but as he has never been extended, we’ll need to see him being matched against somebody who can test him.