If ever a fight deserved a rematch it was the WBC International strawweight title fight between the champion from the Philipines, Gabriel Puma, and the South Africa's Zukisani Kwayiba on Friday night at the Nasrec indoor arena. The fight was stopped by ringside doctors after the ninth round, because Puma's corner could not stop the bleeding from a bad cut on the champion's left eyelid. The cut looked to be caused by an accidental headbutt in the eighth round, but the referee ruled the cut was caused by a punch. While it should perhaps have gone to the scorecards, Kwayiba was awarded a win by TKO. I did have the challenger slightly ahead, but a TD would give a better reflection and look better on Puma's record than a TKO.
Going into this bout Puma was 9-0-1 (6KO) and Kwayiba was 9-0 (5KO), both are twenty years old and have similar styles. Puma defeated another South African in Tsepho Lafele to win the title via the short route in March of this year and enjoyed a #12 rating in the WBC, #15 by the WBA and #13 by WBO. From the outset both men threw caution to the wind and went at each other with abandon. Both landed sensational blows to each other's heads, with Puma unloading more and landing with everything he had in the first round. The second round was more even with both men moving fast and landing solid blows on each other. Rounds three and four saw the challenger getting more blows through, but the champion came back stronger in the fifth and sixth rounds and was attacking with a vengeance at the bell.
Kwayiba slowed the fight down in the seventh round, controlling the middle of the ring and only throwing quick left and rights when the champion came forward. Although both fighters continued to launch and land explosive punches to each other's jaws, neither man really looked to be in any serious trouble. The fight remained eagerly contested right up to the 8th round when the deep cut was opened on the champion's eyelid. With blood streaming from the cut, Puma showed tremendous heart and class by still holding his own in the ninth. Given the severity of the wound it was surprising that the bout was allowed to continue into the ninth round, but it was a great pity that this action-packed spectacle had to end in this way. Both these young guns look to have tremendous potential, but both take way too many punches. Let's hope we get to see Kwayibe – Puma II in the not too distant future, so that the result can be settled in a more satisfying manner.
On a serious and unsporting note, days before his WBC junior bantamweight title elimination fight against Jorge Arce, Hawk Makepula's brother was murdered in Madantsane; now this past week Jo Visagie, the sports program manager for the national broadcaster SABC, was shot during an attempted hijacking outside his home; and former 3 time world champion Dingaan Thobela escaped with his life during another attempted hijacking outside his home just hours before the Visagie shooting. Visagie, has been very close to and involved with the broadcasting of boxing in South Africa for the last 16 years and accepted the WBC award for broadcasting excellence two years ago in Thailand on behalf of SABCSPORT. Visagie was shot in the stomach when he and his wife were confronted by two armed highjackers while leaving their home in Pretoria. Visagie is recovering in hospital and his condition is stable.
“It's very distressing,” says Thobela about his close call. “I arrived outside the gate of my home and fortunately I had left my remote in the house. I called [my wife] Sandra on my cell phone to let me in and then heard somebody trying to open my car door. I looked out the window and saw a guy holding a revolver at my door. Oh my God, I thought. The next thing this guy hit the window with the butt of the revolver. It didn't break and he tried again. I quickly slipped the car into reverse and swung it as I went back, hitting him with the side of the car. I then reversed down the road. He fell to the ground when I bumped him, but still fired some shots at me as I drove away. I knocked a stop sign with the mirror of my car as I reversed and stopped around the corner to see if they were going to give chase. A second man was in a car nearby. I pushed the car into drive and went forward and they gave chase. I was very confused and wasn't sure what was going on. I thought maybe they were police and thought I was somebody else by mistake so decided to drive to a garage or find a police station to see if they wanted to talk to me. I slowed down and turned left down a road, they then turned right and I realized, no they were definitely trying to rob me.
“I had just come from a bank, so it’s possible they saw me drawing cash and followed me. I decided to follow them and I called 10111 (Local 911). I told the operator I was following two armed men who tried to highjack me and they gave me another number to call. I told them they must send backup and they told me to call another number. Sandra had also called 10111 when she saw what was happening at the gate. I followed the car for quite some time, but when I realized the police were not going to help me, I decided to stop following them and to go home – after all these guys had a gun. If I had had my remote and these guys had managed to get inside my property before the gate closed, I don't know what would have happened. Fortunately my car has bulletproof windows, that's why I was able to drive away and not worry about them shooting at me. It was a very upsetting experience and have taken a few days to stabilize my emotions.”
This is the second time Thobela has come face to face with armed robbers. Back in 1989, before he had won any world title, but was holding the national junior lightweight crown, he had been living in a small outside room at his uncle’s house. His car (an Opel Boss) was parked in the street at the time. Awaking from a nap during the day by someone calling outside, Thobela walked out to see what was happening. There he found a group of men trying to break into his car. Startled by his arrival, one of the men pointed a revolved at him. Fortunately one of the gang recognized him and said, “Wait, don't shoot him. He's the Rose of Soweto.” The criminals apologized for trying to steal his car and left. Last week however, the would-be hijackers did not recognize him, or if they did they did not care.
Thobela makes his long awaited return to the ring on October 27th when he challenges Soon Botes for the national light heavyweight title.
While the majority of South Africans are peace loving people, incidents of violent crime are prevalent in the country, are indiscriminate and completely unacceptable. Many people are afraid of going out at night, but keep in mind, both of the above failed hijackings took place in broad daylight in residential areas. Another great boxing talent, Msukisi Sikali, was stabbed to death last year in another random act of violence. Boxing has its problems, but if crime is not addressed it matters little what the sport does, as people will be afraid to go to the venues. Bear in mind that South Africa is the host nation of the 2010 soccer world cup, the largest global event bar the Olympic Games. There are already bad taste jokes going around that international visitors are in for a surprise as they will be open to being robbed, raped and murdered. Some say the media blows these incidents way out of proportion, and perhaps that's true, but as far as I'm concerned even one murder, one rape, one theft is too much. Perhaps one should ask the families of the victims if the media is blowing the loss of their loved ones out of proportion. My thoughts and prayers go to the Visagie and Makepula families at this time.