'The Rock' set to rumble
Thabiso "The Rock" Mchunu (Gallo Images)
Johannesburg - Thabiso "The Rock" Mchunu, who annexed top spot in the recent Super Eight cruiserweight series, has appropriately been included on next year's "Rumble on the Rock" bill which Showpony Promotions are staging as a tribute to Nelson Mandela.
Showpony CEO Damian Michael announced Mchunu as an additional attraction at a media conference on Thursday to confirm Chris "The Heat" van Heerden's defence of his IBO welterweight title against England's Matthew Hatton as the main bout in March.
"His opponent has still to be decided, but after The Rock's devastating performances in the Super Eight, culminating in the stunning fifth-round stoppage of Danie Venter on Saturday, it has to be a top-liner," Michael said.
Meanwhile, Hatton and his father, who acts as his trainer, were brought out to South Africa especially for the official launch, and they wasted little time in becoming involved in the traditional pre-fight verbal battle with Van Heerden.
The ringwise Hatton, who has featured in 51 professional fights against the relatively modest number of 21 by his opponent, said he had no intention of coming to South Africa to savour a defeat, though he had seen some of Van Heerden's fights and respected him as a talented boxer.
"I'll be the winner, but so will the crowd who witness it," said Hatton, the younger brother of former world champion Ricky Hatton.
"I'm sure it's going to be a special, explosive affair - no tickling contest this."
Hatton revealed he had fought for the same IBO title a couple of years ago and he believed he had been deprived of the belt by a controversial verdict of the judges.
"So I'll be returning here to claim the championship belt I feel should already belong to me," he said.
Van Heerden said he had already acquired a supply of pain-killers from his chemist to offer Hatton after the fight.
"The Heat will be all over Hatton. I'm not sure he is aware of what he is letting himself in for," Van Heerden said.
"I'm not predicting a knockout, but I am certain of a victory."
Announced initially as an exhibition parade of former icons to honour former president Mandela, himself an amateur boxer in his youth, the "Rumble on the Rock" programme has now assumed an element of "blood and thunder" fighting.
Michael said discussions were being held with the owners of the Cape Town Stadium to host the tournament.
"We're also looking at Gauteng venues like Soweto Stadium and FNB Stadium," he said.
"But irrespective of the final decision, we would like the weigh-in and a remembrance ceremony to be staged on Robben Island (where Mandela was imprisoned) a couple of days before the Rumble on the Rock is staged."