Johannesburg - Tommy Oosthuizen has produced his best performance in almost three years to outpoint and outsmart Rayno Liebenberg for the IBO light-heavyweight title in what was labelled a grudge fight at Emperors Palace on Saturday night.
Perhaps the biggest surprise, however, was that one of the three judges gave the decision in favour of the gallant, never-say-die, but infinitely less skilled Liebenberg by a 115-113 margin, with the other two judges ruling in favour of Oosthuizen with what will now be recorded officially as a split decision.
Although perhaps over-stating his criticsm of the dissenting judge, Oosthuizen's trainer, former champion Harold Volbrecht, labelled him "a disgrace" and said he would be lodging an official complaint.
And, in truth, there was little doubt that the still unbeaten, 26 year-old Oosthuizen was a worthy winner in adding the IBO light-heavyweight title to the IBO super- middleweight title he abdicated in the midst of a crisis that threatened to end his career prematurely after a succession of personal issues and weight problems.
In the circumstances, the comeback of the boxer who is nicknamed "Tommy Gun" was more a battle with himself than having to cross swords with the 31 year-old Liebenberg, who is known as "The Lion" and certainly has the heart of one, but in boxing terms is not much more than a tough-as-teak and unrelenting journeyman.
However, Oosthuizen was never able to take Liebenberg apart in the manner that the skilled Colombian top title contender, Eleider Alvarez, had managed while ending "The Lion's" unbeaten career with a seventh round tko victory in Monte Carlo a matter of five months ago.
Nevertheless, Golden Gloves promoter Rodney Berman said after Saturday's bout that Oosthuizen's next fight would almost certainly be in the United States "where he will be vying for bigger things."
This could conceivably mean pursuing the title of one of the four top boxing associations, the WBA, the WBC, IBF and WBO, or challenging a fighter of Alvarez's calibre, which would be a true acid test of Oosthuizen's ability.
Both boxers started warily and there was a suggestion in the opening round that they had signed a non-aggression pact - so few punches were thrown during the opening three minutes.
But the action gained in impetus as the fight progressed and both boxers delivered telling punches, as well as demonstrating that they could take punishment without flinching - thereby explaining why there had not been a single knockdown.