By Ron Jackson
Heavyweights Francois Botha and Michael Grant head a bill in which the Montecasino entertainment centre and new promoter Damian Michael of Showpony Promotions can claim some sort of record by presenting five “world” title fights on one night at the Montecasino in Fourways, Sandton near Johannesburg on Saturday night. South Africa’s Botha 48-5-3-1nc; 28 a former IBF and WBF champion faces Grant 47-4; 35 from the USA in a bout for the vacant World Boxing Federation belt.
Both Botha, 43, and Grant 39 have been blown away in two rounds by Lennox Lewis for the WBC and IBF heavyweight belts some years back.
Botha made his pro debut on February y 11, 1990 with a first round knockout over Johan van Zyl and then won his next eleven fights before deciding to base himself in America where he took on all comers and on December 9, 1995 he went to Stuttgart, Germany and outpointed Axel Schulz for the vacant IBF heavyweight belt.
However shortly afterwards Botha was stripped of the belt by the IBF after having tested positive for a banned substance and the result of the fight was changed to a no contest.
The resilient Botha put this setback behind him went on to beat some of the top heavyweights in the world with his only losses coming against world champions Michael Moorer (tko 12), Mike Tyson (ko 5). Lennox Lewis (tko 2), Wladimir Klitschko (tko 8) and Evander Holyfield (tko 8).
Grant from Bluebell, Pennsylvania made his professional debut in July 1994 and went unbeaten in his first 31 fights and was considered as a sure bet to win one of the heavyweight belts on offer.
However, in April 2000 he was smashed to defeat inside tow rounds by Lennox Lewis and his next fight he was stopped in the first round by Jameel McCline.
After these two defeats his career began to wind down and even though he won sixteen of his next 18 fights against ordinary opposition the spark was gone. His two losses were against Dominick Guinn (tko 7) and Tomasz Adamek (pts 10).
The WBF belt has very little recognition in world terms with both Botha and Grant not ranked in the top fifteen of any of the four major organisations.
However, at this level it could be an interesting fight with the ring craft and smarts of Botha battling against the height and reach advantages of Grant.
Former two-time IBF junior lightweight champion Malcolm Klassen 24-5-2; 14 who will be having his first fight since August 22, 2009 meets Daniel Lomeli 21-2; 11 from Mexico in a bout for the vacant WBF super featherweight belt.
In a clash for the vacant WBF cruiserweight belt Ilunga Makabu from the Dominican Republic of the Congo faces the 34-year-old Pedro Otas of Brazil.
Makabu who is now based in South Africa has a reported record of 9-1; 9 and Otas has won 23 lost one and scored 19 wins inside the distance.
Lubabalo Msutu 12-2-1; 10 who had is last fight on August 28, 2009 returns to action when he meets Filipino Dennis Tubieron 12-0-1; 4 in a WBF bantamweight title fight.
In an interesting match-up for the vacant WBF light welterweight belt former South African junior lightweight champion Ali Funeka, 33, faces fellow South African Zolani Marali, 34, who is a former IBO junior feather and junior lightweight, and WBF junior featherweight and junior lightweight champion. Funeka has a record of 30-3-3, 25 and Marali has won 21 and lost four fights with 13 wins inside the distance.
Also on the bill is a bout between Gerry Nekhubvi and Mthobisi Buthelezi for the vacant All African WBF welterweight belt. Nekhubvi has a reported record of 5 wins and 1 loss with 1 win inside the distance and Buthelezi’s record is reported as 10-1; 6.