Jeffrey Mathebula beat Takalani Ndlovu on a split decision to take over the IBF junior featherweight title in Brakpan. Mathebula won 117-111 and 116-112 on the cards of Neville Hotz and Jaap van Nieuwenhuizen. Alfred Bukwana scored it 115-113 for Ndlovu.
Ndlovu seemed to be marching to a convincing victory halfway through the bout, having won at least four of the first six rounds; maybe even five.
But “Mongoose” Mathebula, who seemed to be short of breath at the end of the fourth round, staged an astounding rally to take revenge for the split-decision defeat he had suffered in their previous fight.
Ndlovu, who was so focussed and composed during the early rounds, surrendered control of the fight as Mathebula stepped up his work rate.
The new champion was swinging wildly at the start of the bout and Ndlovu landed the cleaner blows, stalking the challenger and building up what seemed to be a useful lead.
There were no knockdowns and neither fighter looked capable of winning by a knockout but Mathebula won the last three rounds to relieve the champion of his belt, and certainly his No 6 position on Ring magazine’s rankings list.
The fight on the Branco Sports Productions tournament at Carnival City did not quite live up to expectations. The two South Africans just did not look good enough to take on the leading international fighters in the division.
Ndlovu, who is from Soweto, was making the second defence of his belt. The 34-year-old veteran’s record dropped to 33-7, including 18 knockouts.
Mathebula, a former Olympic Games fighter, improved his record to 26-3-2, 14KOs.