Even experienced referee Deon Dwarte saw fit to applaud at the conclusion of the fight.
Although premature to predict, Saturday evening’s battle between Ludumo “9mm” Lamati and Jose Martin Estrada Garcia for the vacant IBO junior featherweight world title must be a leading contender for ‘Fight of the Year’.
Lamati and his Mexican opponent engaged in a 12-round war which will have boxing fans talking for a long time to come, before the South African prevailed by a majority points decision to lift the title.
The fight was the headline bout on the Golden Gloves ‘Generation Next’ card at Emperors Palace, and despite sadly being staged without any spectators present due to Covid-19 restrictions, it was just the spark the sport needed.
In a rare show of appreciation by an official, even experienced referee Deon Dwarte, with his blood-stained sleeves showing further evidence of the battle which he had just overseen, saw fit to applaud at the conclusion of the fight.
Two judges scored the bout in favour of the South African (115-113 and 116-112) and the third saw it as a draw (114-114).
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Lamati had taken the upper hand in the early to mid-point of the fight, commanding the ring, varying his attack with impressive hand speed and body movement, but the tough Mexican absorbed much of what was dished out and returned fire at closer quarters.
However, the frenzied pace of the contest eventually took its toll, more so on Lamati (now 18-0-1) who ended up going into survival mode and holding on desperately in the final two “championship” rounds as Garcia found a second wind and piled on the pressure.
“I tested him and he took my punches,” said Lamati, who sustained a cut on his left eye from what he claimed was an accidental head-butt.
“That’s when I knew I was in for the long distance. The Mexican came to fight and I was prepared for a war.’
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In the main supporting bout, Thulani “Evolution” Mbenge (now 18-1) put a dent in Jabulani Makhense’s 11-fight unbeaten record and added the WBA Pan-African welterweight title to his collection with a third-round stoppage.
As quick as all the hype had built up surrounding this fight, so it ended, as a crisp right and left-hook combination from Mbenge left Makhense all at sea and referee Simon Mokadi stepped in to wave it over 2:43 into the round.
Junior middleweight Brandon Thysse (14-2-1) got a decent workout in his international debut before scoring a 10th round knockout victory over Finland’s Tommy Silvennoinen.
Roarke Knapp boosted his record to 12-1-1 when his previously unbeaten opponent, Benoit Makangila, failed to answer the bell for the start of the third round.
In a cruiserweight rematch, veteran Johnny Muller gained what was admittedly a puzzling split decision over Akani Phuzi, to retain his WBA Pan-African title.
There was little doubt that trainer Harold Volbrecht’s charge had comfortably beaten Phuzi for a second time in succession, and a three-point winning margin by two of the three judges (97-93) reflected that, but one judge somehow saw it the other way (96-94 to Phuzi).
The early evening tournament was preceded by an entertaining development tournament.