By Ron Jackson
South Africa’s Zolani Marali faces one of the toughest challenges of his career when he defends his IBO junior lightweight belt against Ji Hoon Kim from South Korea at Emperors Palace in Kempton Park on Saturday night.
The 32-year-old Marali 20-2; 13 made his professional debut in February 2001 and along the way he has won the SA junior featherweight title, the World Boxing Foundation junior featherweight and junior lightweight belts, and also the IBO junior featherweight and junior lightweight belts.
The only losses on his record were against Thomas Mashaba in May 2004 when he retired in his corner at the beginning of the ninth round complaining of stomach cramps and a highly disputed points loss to Bill Dib in Australia in July 2008 when fighting for the vacant IBO junior lightweight belt.
After Dib relinquished the belt, Marali won the vacant title with a convincing 12 rounds points decision over Gamaliel Diaz of Mexico in April this year.
Kim, 22, has only been fighting as a professional for four years and lost five of his first 13 fights.
However, since October 2006 he has won ten a row with nine of those wins inside the distance.
In May 2008 he scored a first round stoppage win over the highly regarded Koba Gogaladze who was 20-1 at the time.
Since this win he has scored inside the distance victories over Jung-Suk Mo (ko 1), Gilbert Salinas (tko 8), Hyung-Joo Yum (tko 2) and In-Soo Yu (tko 4).
Kim 18-5; 15 who fights from the orthodox stance is known as “Volcano” in his home country and from all reports he comes out throwing big bombs from the first bell.
The southpaw Marali who likes to fight from the outside with his awkward stick-and-run style will have to be at his best to keep the explosive Kim out for 12 rounds.
On the undercard the exiting young Thomas Oosthuizen will be hoping to win his second IBO Youth world title when he meets Cleber Alves of Brazil in a clash for the vacant super middleweight belt.
In what could be the best fight of the night, two unbeaten prospects Grant Fourie and Jason Bedeman meet over 12 rounds for the vacant IBO All Africa lightweight title.
Former WBU middleweight champion Ruben Groenewald returns to action when he faces Ronnie Lategan in a scheduled ten rounder at cruiserweight.
In the show opener junior welterweights Herbert Nkabiti and Johnny Koen meet in a scheduled four.
The tournament is presented by Rodney Berman of Golden Gloves Promotions.