Durban's beachfront. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
Durban's beachfront. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

KWAZULU-NATAL — The sleeping giant of South African boxing — has awoken, Boxing SA’s acting chief, Loyiso Mtya, said on Monday.

He was reacting to the successful world championship at Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre in Durban on Saturday.

The International Boxing Organisation (IBO) flyweight championship between new champion Moruti "Baby Face" Mthalane and Jether "General" Oliva of the Philippines was the first of its magnitude in Durban since 1998.

That was when Simon Ramoni won the IBO super bantamweight strap against American Michael Alldis at the Village Green Hall. It was staged by Branco Milenkovic.

The tournament on Saturday night, in front of a big crowd at the imposing 5,000-seater venue, was staged by Thulani Magudulela’s Ludonga Boxing Promotions, which has been keeping the fires burning since 2010. He took a giant leap by organising the IBO championship — his first event of that stature, featuring South Africa’s top fighter, Mthalane, a former undefeated International Boxing Federation IBF champion, trained by Nick Durandt in Gauteng. Mthalane, from Lindelani, Durban, had not fought at home since 2003. He defeated Oliva, a former amateur star, on a split decision.

Credit for making it happen goes to the provincial government.

The organisation of the event was professional; security was tight from the gates leading to the actual building and no alcohol was allowed inside the venue, where the atmosphere was electrifying.

Mtya was a ringside guest.

"KwaZulu-Natal proved that, given time, it can reclaim the good old days of hosting big boxing events," he said. "It has the venue, promoter, boxers and the infrastructure. The sleeping giant has awoken."

He said fighters from that province — South African middleweight champion Christopher Buthelezi, Andile Mntungwa, Sizwe Mthembu and even female fighter Nomvelo Magcaba — came fully prepared to protect their territory.

Buthelezi overwhelmed Giovanni Bushby with pressure and experience over 12 exciting rounds while Durandt’s other boxer, Jarred Silverman and Mxolisi Nombewu, trained in Tsakane by Themba Zulu, spoiled the party by beating Mntungwa and Mthembu, respectively.

Silverman beat Mntungwa to the extent that his face looked like he had been stung by bees. Nombewu overpowered Mthembu on points over six rounds. Magcaba stopped Gauteng’s Nathalien Bania in two.

Mtya described the energy-sapping 12 rounder between Mthalane and Oliva as "one hell of a fight".

"Mthalane fought a pure world-class boxer. Oliva lost twice and those defeats were in world championship fights (against Ulises Solis for the IBF junior flyweight title in 2011 and also against Mthalane)," said Mtya.