Simon Ramoni, 27-7 (17KO), who is fast becoming a fan favorite when it comes to putting on entertaining fights, stopped Zolani Mbelekane, 16-10-2 (6KO), in the seventh round at the Wembley Stadium in Johannesburg in defense of his SA super flyweight title.

Ramoni, who has been under fire of late for his poor defense, started the fight with his hands high and he seemed more composed than in the previous few bouts. Despite his trainer Manny Fernandez saying that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, he does seem to have knocked it into his charge’s head that he needs to block blows to his face. Likewise Mbelekane who was stopped by Ramoni in 2003 held his hands high and his left jab fired with great speed and precision finding the gap whenever Ramoni left an opening.

Second round saw Ramoni moving forward and loosening up. The challenger on the back foot did not look as comfortable as when he was moving forward. Although Ramoni was putting power behind his blows, he was off-balance when throwing a number of hooks and started showing signs of reverting to the brawler style he’s adopted of late.

At the start of third round Mbelekane caught Ramoni flush on the jaw with a left hook as the champion was on attack. While it did not stagger him it did make him alert to the fact that his challenger could punch. Ramoni tried to keep his opponent under pressure, but Mbelekane still managed to sneak the occasional blow through his guard. If the champion thought he was in for an easy night against a man he’d beaten on two previous occasions he was wrong.

Ramoni controlled the fourth round comfortably and tightened up his defense. He landed a good combination early in the round, but was also finding it difficult to get through the challenger’s tight defense.

The two men mixed it up well in the fifth round and both landed more than in the previous three minutes. The challenger’s blows which were well placed did not seem to bother the champion, while Mbelekane was a little weary on receiving blows, little wonder given the fact that he was stopped in both his previous outings against Ramoni.

Tutelage of Colin Nathan has however clearly helped the challenger and he looks a much better boxer than what his record indicates. At the tail of the sixth Ramoni caught Mbelekane with a solid right to the top of the head. The challenger’s eyes remained clear but his mouth was gaping for breath as the bell rang.

A minute into the seventh round Ramoni caught Mbelekane flush on the jaw with a big left hook which saw the challenger stagger and then fall flat on his face. He rose to his feet and all credit to his heart he went on the attack and for a time looked as though he was going to turn the tide. A minute later both challenger and champion caught each other with solid left hooks. Ramoni was shaken, but the ropes kept him up, the challenger fell forward into the ropes and onto the canvas. He again rose to his feet and the referee let it continue and then suddenly changed his mind and stopped the fight.

With only 30 seconds remaining on the clock, perhaps he could have given the challenger the benefit of the doubt, considering the champion had also been tagged. If not for the ropes, he could well have also gone down. Mbelekane showed incredible heart and let’s hope we’ll see him back in action soon.

Ramoni delivered another exciting fight and admitted that the challenger had hurt him in the last round of the fight. “He hurt me,” says Ramoni, “but my power was too much for him.” Looking at the future, Ramoni, a former IBO bantamweight world champion, is eager to get back into the International arena. “The fight I also want is Hawk Makepula. I know he’s a good fighter, but I want him.”

In an entertaining heavyweight bout on the undercard Jake Else won his fifth pro fight by TKO over Mark Strydom, who was making his pro debut. Although Strydom was down in the first and second rounds, the referee was wrong in stopping the bout in the third. Although on the receiving end, there was nothing wrong with Strydom when the referee stepped in.

Else, a former kick boxer is very comfortable in the ring and packs a good punch, but I’m not convinced that he will amount to anything more than a brawler journeyman. With a scarcity of local heavyweights he needs to be thrown into the International arena to see what he’s made of. I certainly hope I’m wrong and that he is the next big thing, but his management needs to pull up their socks and up the level of his opposition. He does have charisma in the ring, but it’s difficult to gage his abilities when he’s not being tested.

Having said that, Mark Strydom looks as though he has the right moves and although he lost this one, he showed tremendous form considering this was his first paid fight. One wonders why someone with promise was thrown in against someone with Else’s experience on his debut.

Sebastian Rothman, 18-4-2 (12KO), who put up an exciting fight against O’Neil Bell for the IBF cruiserweight world title last year, returns to the ring on May 12. Rothman who now fights under the banner of World Sport Promotions will face Ghanian Aloryi Mayoyo Mensah, 12-2-1, (6KO) for the WBA pan African cruiserweight title in Secunda.

Mensah previously won the WBO African regional cruiserweight title as well as the African Boxing union cruiserweight title, but looks on paper to be out of his league going up against Rothman, a former WBU and IBO cruiserweight world champion. Rothman is eager to get back in the big league following his impressive showing against Bell. A win here should see him listed in the WBA ratings and a crack against Virgil Hill could then well be in the offing.