Tommy Oosthuizen won the vacant WBC international title in his light-heavyweight debut on Saturday night.
But the way his fight against Denis Grachev ended did not please many of the spectators at Emperors Palace, near Kempton Park.
Grachev’s trainer, former world champion Chris Byrd, asked the referee to stop the bout after the tenth round, and again told him after the penultimate round that his fighter was unable to continue.
When the referee agreed to make an end to what had turned into a most disappointing show, Oosthuizen was declared the winner by technical knockout.
The former IBO super-middleweight champion battled to show the form that had made him such a popular and highly rated fighter last year. But the 26-year-old improved his professional record to 24-0-2, including 14 wins inside the distance.
The 32-year-old Grachev dropped to 13-5-1, with eight knockouts, and failed to go the distance for only the second time in his career.
Grachev snapped Oosthuizen’s head back several times in the opening rounds but was taking deep breaths at the end of the second; a sign that the altitude would play an important role. By the sixth round his punches had lost much of their power.
Oosthuizen, who had said he did not believe in the concept of ring rust, certainly looked decidedly rusty after a year out of action. He came off second best in several early exchanges when he chose to fight at close quarters instead of using his reach advantage.
By the eighth round the action resembled an exhibition between two has-beens but it at least gave Oosthuizen the opportunity to get some rounds under his belt before resuming his career next year.
Ali Funeka won the IBO welterweight title by beating Roman Belaev on a technical decision in the twelfth round.
The South African was leading 105-104 on two cards and 109-100 on the third when the bout was stopped because of a deep cut above Belaev’s right eye.
The Russian was injured in the tenth round but the ringside doctor let him carry on, which he bravely did in chasing Funeka almost right to the end.
The 36-year-old Funeka, a former WBF junior welterweight champion, took too many blows to the head as the visitor, ten years his junior, refused to leave him alone.
Belaev, who is at No 34 on the IBO’s November welterweight rankings list, lost for the first time in his professional career in dropping to 14-1, with ten knockouts. The new champion’s record now stands at 31-3, with three draws and 25 knockouts.
Funeka, 19th on the organisation’s list of junior welterweights before the fight, has also held the SA junior lightweight and welterweight titles and the WBC international and WBF junior welterweight belts.
The tall Eastern Cape fighter, with telling reach and height advantages, dropped his guard in the second round and paid the penalty when Belaev rattled him with a left to the jaw. It happened again and again, and Funeka later blamed an injury to his right hand for his problems on defence.
The Russian, who fights out of Germany, took a lot of jabs as he tried to get close enough to Funeka to inflict some damage of his own.