Knockout king Perez shows no mercy to Knapp in IBO fight

Image: James B Gradidge

Boxing trainer Vusi Mtolo wanted Roake “Razor” Knapp to win the IBO junior-middleweight boxing belt and become his second charge to hold that organisation's belt.

Right now, SA has two IBO champions – Jackson “M3" Chauke and Ricardo “Magic Man” Malajika.

Chauke, trained by Damien Durandt, holds the flyweight belt while Mtolo's charge, Malajika is the junior-bantamweight holder.

Based in Coral Gables, Florida in the US, the IBO does not rank among the top four most sanctioning bodies – the WBA, IBF, WBC and WBO – but it has given local fighters more opportunities to get international exposure more than the other boxing bodies.

South Africans have won IBO titles in 15 of the 17 weight divisions of boxing since the IBO began working with this country in 1988 – the same year it was established.

One of the two weight classes that SA needed to win is the junior-middleweight class, and Knapp's backers Golden Gloves, which promoted most of IBO championships fight featuring South Africans, had hoped that their fighter will fill that gap.

But it became a painful moment for them when Mtolo had to run to the corner and lift his vanquished boxer who had been destroyed literally by hard-hitting Mexican Jorge Garcia Perez on Saturday night.

The fight ended even before it happened, with Knapp looking like someone losing sense of direction, after being viciously floored in the third round.

Referee Deon Dwarte counted but he quickly realised that it was pointless and he waved the fight over. Knapp looked uncertain of what was going on around him. It was good call by Dwarte to end it right there.

In truth, the outcome was not shocking, but it happened so quick. Perez, rated at No 24 by the IBO, is a knockout specialist who has flattened 25 of his 30 opponents. He packs a mean punch. He been defeated four times, three by razor thin split points margin, and once via a unanimous decision.

Knapp, who went into the fight enjoying the No 12 rating, tried to scare off the Mexican but his attempts, most of the time, were like waving a read rag at the bull. Perez would fight back furiously.

He did it in the third round after Knapp had touched him with good combos, firing well-placed power punches blows in an unfortunate exchange and the rest was history.

This happens when Golden Gloves Promotion's CEO Rodney Berman had secured a deal with DAZN, the global sport streaming business with more than 20-million subscribers, to broadcast the tournament.

Berman said there was interest in Knapp and Shervantaigh “SK” Koopman as they are beginning to make headlines beyond SA. The move was an amazing opportunity to showcase SA boxing to the world.

Koopman, also trained by Mtolo, won the IBO Intercontinental junior-middleweight in the main supporting bout to the Knapp vs Perez 12-rounder.

Koopman dug deeper against Wendy Toussant, who showed moments of brilliance but with low work rate, to win their closely contested 10-rounder.

Koopman won by close points margins. The reigning SA and IBF Africa champ who is also under the guidance of Mtolo remained undefeated after 14 fights.

Mtolo's mini-straw weight fighter, Beavan Sibanda, defeated ring veteran Siphamandla Baleni on points over eight rounds. These bout formed part of the tournament that was billed as “No Mercy,” and that is exactly what Perez showed to Knapp – much to the deafening silent from a big crowd at Emperors Palace's Centre Court.

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