Johannesburg - After 12 vacillating rounds, 33-year-old Jeffrey "Mongoose" Mathebula earned the right to fight to reclaim the IBF featherweight title on Saturday night with a points victory over 35-year-old Takalani Ndlovu at Carnival City, in Brakpan.
All three judges scored it an identical 116-112 margin.
Ndlovu finished with a belated flourish, but Mathebula, a fellow former champion who had been out of boxing for six months as a result of a broken jaw when he surrendered his IBF title, dominated the middle stage of the fight with deft and intelligent counter-punching.
Meanwhile, South African fighters emerged with impressive victories over their Filipino counterparts on a varied supporting programme containing a fair degree of all-out action, a stunning first-round knockout and a bizarre draw decision for the vacant South African lightweight title.
In the second IBF title eliminator of the night, in the bantamweight division, Vusi "Marvelous" Malinga went some way towards living up to his nickname by outpointing highly-rated Filipino Diarh "Die Hard" Gabutan by virtue of his unrelenting aggression over the 12 rounds and consistently superior punching power.
But despite receiving a gory cut over the eye midway through the fight and coming up against a fighter with greater strength, Gabutan fought with courage and skill and played his part in an entertaining, uncompromising spectacle.
Finally, however, the judges' verdict of 117-111, 116-112 and 115-113 in favour of Malinga accurately demonstrated the difference between two willing, determined and unrelenting fighters.
Apart from now earning a second shot at the IBF bantamweight title, Malinga also came away with a R50 000 bonus that was put on line by promoter Branco Milenkovic if he came away with a victory over his Filipino opponent.
In contrast, the judging in the drawn fight for the vacant SA lightweight title between Patrick "The Hitman" Malinga and Thompson Mokwana was inconsistent.
While one of the three judges made it 119-110 in favour of Malinga, a second ruled it 117-112 in favour of Mokwana.
The third judge made it a 114-114 draw, resulting in the spoils being shared and the national lightweight title remaining vacant.
Zolani Tete resurrected his career as a potential junior-bantamweight international fighter of note when he knocked out Eduard Penerio in the first round with a barrage of left and right hooks that left the bemused Filipino spreadeagled on the canvas for more than three minutes.
In a four-round junior-welterweight fight, Shannon Strydom pummelled an over-matched Gedion Mathe from the opening bell to gain a runaway third-round TKO victory.
Results of the African Glory 3 boxing tournament at Carnival City on Saturday night:
Junior-welterweight (four rounds): Shannon Strydom beat Gedion Mathe, third-round TKO
South African lightweight championship (12 rounds): Patrick Malinga drew with Thompson Mokwana (title remains vacant)
International junior-bantamweight (eight rounds): Zolani Tete beat Eduard Penerio, first-round knockout
IBF bantamweight title eliminator (12 rounds): Vusi Malinga beat Diarh Gabutan (Philippines), points
IBF junior-featherweight title eliminator (12 rounds): Jeffrey Mathebula beat Takalani Ndlovu, points