It’s ‘Tommy Pop­gun’ ...

Oosthuizen labours to a win in re­turn to ring but Johnny Muller is all-ac­tion at the Palace

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - SAPA

SOUTH AFRICAN boxer Thomas Oosthuizen ended a year’s ab­sence from the ring with a TKO vic­tory after 11 rounds against Rus­sian journeyman De­nis Grachev in his first out­ing as a light-heavy­weight in their WBC ti­tle fight at Em­per­ors Palace on Satur­day night.

But rather than roar­ing back into ac­tion, the boxer nick­named “Tommy Gun” came back with some­thing more re­sem­bling a whim­per as he fired blanks for most of an unin­spir­ing, plod­ding fight against an op­po­nent who grad­u­ally lost all his steam like a punc­tured bal­loon. The decision went in favour of Oosthuizen when Grachev’s han­dlers sur­pris­ingly threw in the towel with a mere sin­gle round left, de­spite the fighter not ap­pear­ing to be in se­ri­ous trou­ble.

Oosthuizen had forged into a clear lead by this stage, but this was mainly due to Grachev’s lack of punch­ing power that left his will­ing, but de­clin­ing ca­reer in tat­ters after suf­fer­ing a fifth de­feat in his last six fights.

It was Grachev, how­ever, who came out the more ag­gres­sive and im­pres­sive boxer in the open­ing two rounds and landed the greater num­ber of punches. For­mer IBO su­per mid­dleweight cham­pion Oosthuizen re­tained his un­beaten record with 23 wins and two draws, but gone was his once-famed danc­ing foot­work and his move­ments were more in keep­ing with some­one in the heavy­weight di­vi­sion.

In the main sup­port­ing bout be­tween two of the Em­per­ors Palace’s most popular fight­ers, Johnny Muller’s all-ac­tion ap­proach gained him a clear-cut points vic­tory over Kevin Ler­ena, end­ing Ler­ena’s 11bout un­beaten record.

Although Muller is the SA lightheavy­weight cham­pion, the bout was staged at the heav­ier cruis­er­weight limit and this was ex­pected by many pun­dits to give the stylish Ler­ena an ad­van­tage. In­stead, Muller’s re­lent­less at­tack­ing ap- proach earned him a unan­i­mous decision from the judges. It was con­sid­ered a make-or-break fight for Muller, who had been badly beaten by lit­tle-known Doudou Ngumbu in his last unim­pres­sive ap­pear­ance in Monte Carlo re­cently.

East­ern Cape 36-year-old veteran Ali Funeka fi­nally gained a clear-cut tech­ni­cal points decision over Rus­sian Ro­man Be­laev for the IBO wel­ter­weight ti­tle, after his op­po­nent suf­fered a nasty cut over his eye in the 11th round that re­sulted in the fight be­ing stopped. De­spite the fight be­ing for the IBO ti­tle, the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s limited recog­ni­tion was re­flected by the fact that they sanc­tioned the fight for one of their ti­tles even though Be­laev is ranked 36th and Funeka 19th in the lighter ju­nior wel­ter­weight di­vi­sion.


EX­CHANG­ING BLOWS: South Africa’s Tommy Oosthuizen (right) and Rus­sian boxer De­nis Grachev dur­ing their WBC ti­tle fight won by Oosthuizen at Em­per­ors Palace in Ekurhu­leni on Satur­day night.

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