By Mesuli Zifo
Former IBF world heavyweight champion Francois Botha is still using past achievements in an attempt to get back to title contention in a heavyweight division lacking a true challenger to the dominant Klitschko brothers.
According to him the fact that he shared the ring with Mike Tyson, Lennox Lewis, Wladimir Klitschko, Shannon Briggs, Michael Moorer and the way past his prime Evander Holyfield is good enough for him to land marquee fights.
But the 42-year-old Botha has now assumed a status of a stepping stone for the young fighters who are still looking to make a name for themselves and land a spot in the upper echelons of the heavyweight division.
In February Botha, who goes by the “White Buffalo” moniker was targeted as an opponent for the unbeaten British rising star Tyson Fury.
But after careful consideration including taking into account his age and his last performance-an eighth round stoppage defeat by Holyfield- the British Boxing Board of Control pulled the plug on the fight leaving Botha seething with rage as he believed that he had a shot to derail the career of the unbeaten 22-year-old Fury.
However Botha has been fortunate to land a fight against another unbeaten prospect back home in South Africa where he will face a relative novice Flo Simba at Emperors Palace in Johannesburg, SA, on Saturday.
While Simba’s boxing achievements are nothing compared to Fury’s, Botha sees the fight as an opportunity to prove that he is still a force to be reckon with in the depleted heavyweight division.
He once surprised detractors when he acquired the IBF crown after beating German Axel Schulz in 1995 only to be stripped of the title when he tested positive to a banned substance.
He was granted another opportunity at the title but lost via a 12th round stoppage to Moorer.
Simba is unbeaten in 10 bouts with nine stoppages but his resume contains non-descript foes who were handpicked to pad his record.
The 21-year-old is still learning the ropes of the Sweet Science as he only fought five amateur fights before being thrown into the professional ranks where he continued with his amateur style of fighting against a combination of truck driver-lookalike foes.
When criticism peaked about the choice of Simba’s opponents, his promoter Rodney Berman turned to Botha as his next foe.
Managed by former WBA/IBF junior lightweight champion Brian Mitchell while former two-time WBA world welterweight challenger Harold Volbrecht (who lost to both Pipino Cuevas and Mark Breland in WBA title challenges) is serving as a trainer, Simba has been touted as the next big thing to emerge from SA by Berman.
But the youngster has shown glaring technical flaws in his fights that he will take time to actually make his mark even in this weak heavyweight division.
Simba is relatively quick for a heavyweight but his penchant to fight with his chin exposed will cost him in the heavyweight division whose fighters generally thrive on throwing bombs.
Botha says he will be the first to capitalize on the youngster’s flaws.
“When they offered me this fight I did not hesitate for a moment because I have been watching this kid and I know his boxing make up has holes to exploit,” Botha said.
Botha, who still possesses underrated toughness, might push Simba to the limit as he did to the unbeaten German Pedro Carrion whom he fought to draw in October 2009.