In a huge upset and against the flow of the fight Sebastian “The Soldier” Rothman was knocked out on Friday night in Secunda by Ghanaian Aloryi Mayoyo Mensah while contesting the vacant WBA intercontinental title. Immediately after the fight, which a very serious Rothman looked on route to winning, the former WBU and IBO cruiserweight world champion called it quits, saying that’s the end of his career.
From the announcement of this fight which was seen as a mere vehicle to get Rothman rated by the WBA so that he could challenge Virgil Hill for the world title, the general consensus was that Mensah would be easy pickings for the likable boxer. Nobody told the Ghanaian however. Rothman has been chomping on the bit to get back in the ring and has been training for four months waiting for his career to resume.
Stepping into the ring Rothman looked the most serious and lean I have ever seen him. An expression of just wanting to get in there and get the fight over with was etched all over his body and at 24 seconds of the fight he dropped his opponent with a beautiful right hook which saw his gum-guard flying through the air. As the taller and ripped Mensah rose wobbly to his feet the impression was there of what the hell is this “guy” doing in the ring with Rothman.
Rothman remained all business and tagged Mensah again but was unable to finish him off as a result of the Ghanaian holding on and clinching. The referee warned him on three occasions for doing so. Rothman again landed well shortly before the bell sounded and Mensah looked relieved to get the reprieve. Leading up to the fight only a sketchy ring record was made available which did not look too impressive or dangerous, but then a second record surfaced showing that the Ghanaian had 14 knockouts in 15 wins with 1 loss.
In training it was also revealed that Mensah is a brawler who swings devastating hooks with both hands and was perhaps not as easy a touch as expected. In fact a strange comeback match for a man who lost his last fight with a devastating knockout at the hands of O’Neil Bell. Were the matchmakers also not aware of the high KO ratio and awkward unorthodox style of Mensah? It’s always better going in against a legend who you know about than someone with a sketchy resume, who has nothing to lose and everything to gain by beating you.
The second round Rothman was still the dominant force, moving around his prey and seemingly hurting him with jabs and hooks. Mensah retaliated with wild swings and while he can clearly punch it did not look as though he had much skill. He did however catch Rothman with a wild hook on the bell. The South African was looking agitated and not at all comfortable. He was not the boxing Rothman of the past, but rather a fighter just looking for the opening to knock his man out. Mensah was complaining to his corner, which was manned by former heavyweight contender Johnny Du Plooy, about his shoes slipping on the canvass.
Rothman started the third round bringing his familiar left jab into the fray and landing some good right hands. The rugged Mensah responded by clubbing left and right hooks into the shorter man. Rothman was fighting off the back foot and counterpunching as Mensah came forward. While he was throwing good blows Mensah lifted both hands each time the headshots were coming and the former champion battled to get through his defense. He used the opportunity to land some body shots, but he could see that his opponent was no longer in the danger zone and this could well turn into a longer night than he expected.
The fourth round started with something of a farce as during the rounds Mensah’s corner tried to change his boots. They ran out of time however and could only change one so Mensah went into the fourth round wearing two different coloured boots and the one was not even done up. Rothman moving to his left landed with three well placed jabs to Mensah’s mouth, missed with a fourth and walked straight into a swooping right hook which landed flush on his jaw.
The bighearted fighter rose groggily to his feet and had clearly not recovered when the fight resumed. Mensah threw a few wild punches, not connecting cleanly with any of them when Rothman went down again. Instead of staying down and taking time to recover he stood up immediately and told the referee he was fine. With over two minutes still on the clock it was never going to be easy to get out of this one.
Mensah with the scent of victory luring him on climbed into the hapless South African with clubbing right and left hooks. Rothman covered up to try and weather the storm, but some of the right hands where forcing their way through his defense and he fell to the canvas a third time. Holding onto the rope and looking up at his corner with heartbroken eyes, Rothman looked disappointed in himself and angry and sorry all at the same time.
As in one corner the dream of another crack at the big time was broken, in the other corner another dream was born from obscurity. As if to punish himself Rothman proclaimed, “I want to thank all my fans and all the media for all the support and everything they have done for me, but that’s it. I quit. At 31, I’ve got a family to think of. I quit. I’m looking into opening a gym and training the youngsters, it’s over for me. Thanks for all you guys did for me.”
A shocking result, a shocking declaration. I wouldn’t read too much into the loss. Rothman was looking good against an obscure, unorthodox heavy hitting opponent. The punch that dropped him the first time would have felled any boxer. Rothman does still have the goods. I was ringside when Virgil Hill looked like a tragic has-been being brutally pounded by Jean-Marc Mormeck and calling it quits to his career. Now he’s the WBA world champion.
When the bitter disappointment subsides and Rothman’s thinking clearly and unemotionally about it, he may rethink the decision to quit. If it is the end of the road for the Soldier as a fighter, hey, he held two versions of a world title and put up a credible challenge against the man who became an undisputed champ, not too shabby. Good luck in the future “Basjan” and thanks for the memories.