Rodney Berman Talks Ryno Liebenberg, Thabo Sonjica

Johannesburg – Golden Gloves promoter Rodney Berman says he will keep faith with wayward Thabo Sonjica, despite the East London-based fighter weighing in 2kgs [4.4-pounds] over the junior featherweight limit and surrendering his IBO title before completing a clear-cut points victory over Filipino Roli Gasca at Emperors Palace on Saturday night.

“Naturally, the initial response was to feel a little angry and frustrated that a boxer could act in such an unprofessional manner and not only affect the value of the [event], but also damage his own future,” Berman said.

“However, Sonjica is still a youngster in boxing terms and relatively inexperienced. But he is immensely talented and could have a great future if handled properly and brought to maturity in the right manner.”

Berman said at the root of the problem was the fact that the rangy Sonjica's body make-up suggested he should be competing in a higher weight division than that of junior featherweight.

“In fact I think his height warrants him going up two weight divisions and not one, ultimately making his mark in the junior lightweight division. It's a loss surrendering the IBO title, but there is a lot of time for him to win titles with his immense natural talent and growing maturity and experience.”

Berman also raved over the performance of Rayno Liebenberg, beating Russian Denis Grachev for the WBC light-heavyweight silver title on Saturday, in a bruising, no-holds-barred 12 round battle, in spite of suffering an ugly cut over his right eye in only the first round.

“The early setback only motivated Rayno to fight with greater determination and resolution and shrug off the bleeding that continued right through the fight.

“On this display, he is destined to become South African boxing's own version of Rocky and join the top crowd pleasers this country has produced.”

Sonjica, for his part, must have felt the pain of the bitter-sweet victory after the three judges made him a 117-109, 116-109 and 116-109 winner in a curious, but at times absorbing, confrontation in which both boxers hit the canvas for counts of eight.

The over-powered and out-matched Gasca was a good head shorter than Sonjica and never looked capable of taking over the mantle of IBO junior featherweight champion.

Liebenberg extended his unbeaten record to 16 victories, but it was hardly by the margin the judges suggested, scoring him 120-108, 117-111 and 116-112.

The Krugersdorp boxer himself afterwards admitted it had been a much closer and tougher contest.

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