The day Mashaba silenced packed East London venue

Thomas Mashaba, right, and his trainer-manager Eugene Khanyile defied the odds as they won the world on June 25 2005 and went on to defend five times. /ANTONIO MUCHAVE
Thomas Mashaba, right, and his trainer-manager Eugene Khanyile defied the odds as they won the world on June 25 2005 and went on to defend five times. /ANTONIO MUCHAVE

Today 15 years ago, a locomotive driver deep in the belly of the earth at a gold mine in Carletonville claimed a bright spotlight for himself in the boxing ring.

On this day in 2005, Thomas "Merciless" Mashaba silenced an overly partisan crowd in the Absa Stadium, East London, by beating celebrated local hero, the legendary Vuyani "The Beast" Bungu.

The rough diamond, whose skills were polished by successful yet undermined trainer Eugene Khanyile, won the IBO featherweight belt from Bungu.

The fight was seen as a mismatch due to Bungu's vast experience, class and quality of opponents the former IBF junior featherweight champion had fought.

Coming to this fight, Mashaba had also held a junior featherweight world title after dethroning Bungu's stablemate Zolani Marali in 2004 to claim the IBO belt.

When Bungu lost the IBO featherweight belt to Mashaba, he was actually making the first defence since winning it against Takalani Ndlovu in 2003. It was also the first time Bungu fought at home as a world champion. The former IBF junior featherweight champion from Mdantsane, East London, who reigned supreme with 13 defences never got to defend at home.

Bungu was odds on favourite to overwhelm Mashaba in every department. But he showed Bungu no respect, dominating their fight from round seven to the 12th. He was deservedly awarded the victory by all three judges whose scores read 117-112; 116-114 and 116-113.

Bungu's defeat, at the age of 38, ended his illustrious 18-year career. He had easily beaten top-name fighters such as Kennedy McKinney, Felix Camacho, Jesud Salud, Ernesto Grey and Danny Romero Junior to mention but a few.

The only big names Mashaba had fought before outclassing Bungu were Marali and Anusorn Yotjan, the Thai who was undeservedly declared a points winner for the WBO Asia Pacific junior featherweight title in Bangkok in 2003.

Mashaba lost the IBO belt in his fifth defence to Mexican Cristobal Cruz in the US in 2008. And like it happened with Bungu, Mashaba never fought again after the loss, retiring with 20 wins, two losses and four draws.

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