By Ron Jackson
Luthando Vukuza won the SA featherweight title when he beat Manelisi Mbilase on a split decision at the Orient Theatre in East London on Friday night. The scores were 116-114 and 115-114 for Vukuza and 116-114 for Mbilase.
Mbilase (57.05 kg) was making the first defence of the title he had won at Carletonville in October last year when he beat Vukuza on a highly disputed points decision. In a battle of southpaws Mbilase (10-4, 2 KOs) was unable to hold off the more aggressive Vukuza whose record improved to 6-4-1, 0 KO in a crowd-pleasing bout.
Vukuza (57.15 kg), who has an unconventional style and a tendency to showboat, seemed to be tiring in the middle rounds but picked up the pace and finished strongly in the last round to convince two of the judges that he had done enough to take the title.
Mbilase was more focussed throughout and staggered Vukuza with solid right hooks off a stiff jab on several occasions.
Vukuza had the edge in hand speed and punching power, even though he lacked the composure and concentration of the champion.
However, despite the fight being closely contested both fighters tended to pose and miss on numerous occasions as referee Allen Matekane did a good job in a cleanly contested bout.
After their first fight for the vacant title, Boxing SA ordered a rematch but for some time no promoter was willing to put on the bout.
There was even talk of the rematch taking place in a gymnasium, with no payment to the boxers, in terms of the Boxing Act.
In the end, promoter Siphato Handi put on the fight at the Orient Theatre before a capacity crowd.
A rubber match should fill most venues.
On the undercard, Siviwe Ntsiko (47.30 kg) won the vacant Eastern Cape mini-flyweight title when he stopped Lwandle Sityata (47.05 kg) at 42 seconds into the tenth round.