By Ron Jackson
Zolani Marali will try to win a fourth world organisation belt when he meets Gamaliel Diaz of Mexico for the vacant IBO junior lightweight belt at Emperors Palace in Kempton Park on Thursday night.
Promoter Rodney Berman of Golden Gloves Promotions has put together an interesting undercard that will feature WBA Pan African heavyweight and IBO All Africa junior flyweight titles.
Marali 19-2; 13 who will be 32-years-old on May 5 has held the IBO junior featherweight, World Boxing Foundation junior featherweight and junior lightweight belts, will be having his first fight since July last year when he lost a highly disputed decision to Billy Dib in Australia for the vacant IBO junior lightweight belt.
Dib was stripped of the IBO belt after losing to Steven Luevano in a challenge for the WBO featherweight belt on July 18, 2008.
The southpaw Marali is an outstanding talent who made his pro debut in 2001 and won the SA junior featherweight title in November 2002 when he outpointed Oupa Lubisi.
In July 2003 he won the vacant IBO junior featherweight belt with a points victory over the experienced Pastor Maurin from Argentina.
However, in his next fight on May 22, 2004 he lost the belt and suffered his first loss as a professional when he retired at the bell for the ninth round against South Africa’s Thomas Mashaba. A completely off form Marali complained of stomach cramps and said he was in such pain that he was unable to continue with the fight.
In October of the same year he regained the SA junior featherweight title with a 12 round points win over Bonani Hlwatika.
After successful defences against Koos Sibiya and Vuyani Phulo he relinquished the national title when he beat Jean Marie Codet of France for the vacant World Boxing Foundation junior featherweight belt in September 2006.
He then made a successful defence against Colombian Heveison Herrera before relinquishing the belt due to increasing weight problems and moved up to the junior lightweight division and in clash for the vacant World Boxing Foundation belt beat Dario Lombardo from Argentina and made a successful defence against Godfrey Nzimanade in April 2008.
He subsequently relinquished the belt to fight Billy Dib for the vacant IBO belt.
In his most recent fight the 28-year-old Diaz whose birth name is Gamaliel Diaz Magana, was stopped in the eleventh round by Humberto Soto on October 11, 2008 when fighting for the Interim WBC super featherweight title. Diaz was down in the first round and deducted two points for holding in the tenth round.
After losing his first fight as a professional in May 1998 Diaz won his next three and then went on to lose four in row.
However, he got his career back on track with an unbeaten streak of 18 fights before winning the North American Boxing Federation featherweight title on a split decision over the highly rated Robert Guerrero, who would go on to win the IBF featherweight belt.
In a return bout with Guerrero in June 2006 he was knocked out in the sixth round to lose his NABF featherweight title.
In December 2007 Diaz was knocked out in the eighth round by Jorge Linares who was 24-0 at the time, when challenging for the WBC featherweight belt.
Even though Diaz 23-8-2; 10 has fought some quality opponents the taller Marali should emerge as a points winner over 12 rounds.
On the undercard Jared Lovett 5-0; 5 the Boxing SA Prospect of the Year for 2008 meets his first International opponent when he clashes with Fernando Vera 11-16-2; 8 from Argentina in a scheduled eight round cruiserweight bout. Vera has lost ten of his last fourteen fights.
In a fight for the vacant IBO All Africa junior flyweight title unbeaten Hekkie Budler meets Charitt Mukondeleli and heavyweights Thamsanqa Dube and Jake Els meet for the vacant WBA Pan African heavyweight title.
Other bouts on the bill are Junior lightweight, 4 rounds: Sibusiso Khumalo v Octavius Mbira; Flyweight: 4 rounds: Peter Phelane v Jackson Chauke.