BOXING promoter Rodney Berman was shocked and fans gaped in disbelief as Zolani Marali nodded a sign of giving up in round 10 after being dropped for a count by unknown mediocre South Korean Ji Hoon Kim.
That is how easy Marali lost the IBO junior lightweight belt at Emperors Palace on Saturday night.
"This was a hand-picked opponent," said Berman, stuttering to express his disillusionment.
Even Boxing SA's chairperson Peter Ngatane turned grey in shock. "Marali had no business to lose to this guy," he said.
A deafening silence from the 2500 vociferous fans, who before this let-down sang reggae songs cheering up their Rastafarian fighter, filled the Centre Court.
Berman was to advise Marali to relinquish the IBO belt and pursue the WBC route as the Mexico-based sanctioning body rates him sixth in this vacant title. Now any hope of him getting a shot at the WBC belt appears to have waned.
The left-hander, an enormously talented fighter from Mdantsane, had an advantages in skill and technique in the Kim bout. IBO vice president Len Hunt, who was fight supervisor, revealed that Marali was ahead on all scorecards.
But clearly Kim was sturdier, better-conditioned and more determined. Simply put, none of Marali's various edges were enough to thwart Kim's superior heart and toughness.
Two swift lefts and rights combination to the side of the head from Kim and down went Marali like he had been shot by a bullet.
Marali got up, and referee Phil Edwards from the UK, asked him if he was ready to continue. Shockingly, Marali, bleeding badly from his nostrils, seemed to have indicated to him in sign language that "no more".
Evans stepped in between, ending the fight. That was it. It was a replica of the Marali-Thomas Mashaba contest for IBO super bantamweight title. Marali gave in round nine.
Meanwhile, Marali's trainer, Colin Nathan, saved his other charge, badly beaten Grant Fourie, from total destruction by Jason Bederman in the 10th round for the IBO Africa lightweight championship.
Bederman, trained by Manny Fernandez, improved nine wins (6 KOs) while Fourie tasted defeat after nine wins (6 KOs).