It’s ‘Tommy Popgun’ ...
Oosthuizen labours to a win in return to ring but Johnny Muller is all-action at the Palace
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.