Johannesburg - The departure from the local scene of former champions Osborne “Big Daddy” Machimana and Kevin “KO Kid” Lerena will make the heavyweight and junior heavyweight divisions as vibrant as they were more than a decade ago.
This is the view of Boxing South Africa ratings committee chairperson Willie Saayman after Machimana and Lerena relinquished their titles.
They vacated their South African heavyweight and junior heavyweight crowns, respectively, early last month to focus on pursuing international titles. Big Daddy had held the national heavyweight crown since May last year after knocking out Anton Nel in four rounds at Birchwood Hotel, Boksburg. KO Kid had reigned supreme in the junior heavyweight class since 2015.
The two have decided to set their sights on a path that will ultimately see them fight for world titles.
As national title holders, they have not been very active as there were no worthy foes to defend against.
Saayman, who is in charge of compiling monthly ratings for local boxers, believes the absence of both fighters as national title holders will give the current crop of contenders in both divisions a chance to fight regularly and will result in quality champs and contenders entertaining the crowds.
In the past, the heavyweight class saw big punchers such as Corrie Sanders, Francois “White Buffalo” Botha and Sam Ubokane, who were huge drawcards during their era.
Sanders knocked out Johnny du Plooy in the first round at the Sun City Superbowl in 1991 to win the vacant South African heavyweight title. He also held the World Boxing Organisation belt, which he took from Wladimir Klitschko via a second-round technical knockout in Hanover, Germany, in 2003.
White Buffalo beat German Axel Schulz by a unanimous points decision to snatch the International Boxing Federation heavyweight crown in Stuttgart, Germany, in 1995. Botha was later stripped of his belt after testing positive for steroids. Ubokane was a promising heavyweight who carried a big punch and drew crowds to his bouts. Unfortunately, he did not manage to win a title.
In 2006, the junior heavyweight category had exciting pugilists in the mould of Soon Botes, Andre Thysse and Wiseman Dlomo.
The current crop of heavyweights comprises number one contender in Gauteng Ruann Visser; the others are Marc Subramoney (second, KwaZulu-Natal), Warren le Roux (fifth, Gauteng) and Danie van Heerden (eighth, Gauteng).
In the junior heavyweight division, Johnny Muller and Thabiso Mchunu are listed first and second respectively in contention for the championship that was vacated by Lerena. Muller and Mchunu will slug it out for the African Boxing Union cruiserweight belt at Emperors Palace on Saturday.
“With the departure of Machimana, the South African heavyweight division is going to be very vibrant, like it was many years ago, because these contenders are very talented. They just need to be kept as active as possible by promoters,” said Saayman.
He said the junior heavyweight class would also be exciting in the next few months.
“Muller is a top contender, while Mchunu is second. It will be nice if promoters could just allow the two guys to fight for the vacant national title. This is the fight that the public want to see,” said Saayman.
Machimana said Venter would hopefully make the weight category if he won the national title.
“Look, I basically relinquished the crown for him to fight for it and win it. Now that I’m no longer champion, I would like to see this division being more active, like it was many years ago,” said Big Daddy.
KO Kid said he had given up his belt so that he could fight Russian Maxim Vlasov for the vacant International Boxing Organisation intercontinental belt at Emperors Palace on August 12.
Lerena also hopes the division will be more dazzling now that he is no longer in the picture.
“I think Thabiso [Mchunu] is good enough to win the crown. I would like to see him being matched against Muller,” he said.