Smiling assassin a knockout in the boxing ring
Winning by a knockout is the ultimate deodorant for any fighter. It makes them feel good.
In fact, if a fighter wants to erase the perception about them, they must just win their fight by a knockout.
Conversely, if a fighter wants their perception as a smiling assassin to diminish, then they must go the scheduled distance, especially with an opponent who will be glad just to hold a candle to them during sparring.
Just last weekend, emerging KO artist Thulani "Evolution" Mbenge fought Diego Chaves of Argentina at Emperors Palace. In his last fights, the former SA and ABU titlist laboured against Diego Cruz from Mexico for the vacant WBC International title in March. That was Mbenge's third fight to go the distance.
Mbenge, 24, a bronze medallist in the 2014 Commowealth Games, had won his 10 previous fights by short-route since he turned professional in 2015.
But he looked pedestrian, winning a 12-round unanimous decision against Cruz. Two judges, one from Ghana, the other from France, were generous with scores of 119-109, while the score of the third judge from Belgium reflected what happened inside the ring with his 117-111 scorecard.
Trained in Joburg by Sean Smith, the smiling assassin from Mdantsane built his career by stopping equally competent Congolese Eric Kapia Mukadi in the fourth round for the ABU title in 2016. Mbenge then stopped Sean Ness in the ninth round to win the SA title in April last year.
But again Mbenge looked ordinary against Jay Inson of the Philippines before his real test of character against Mziwoxolo Ndwayana, who came back from an early knockdown to strech Mbenge to full 12 rounds. Mbenge had openly promised to knock the "m****r f*****s" put in front of him.
Suddenly there were doubts about his power. Smith pleaded with sceptics to give his charge a chance.
True to Smith's promise, Mbenge painstakingly worked behind his stabbing jab, setting up Chaves for the thunderous right hand that dropped him in the sixth round. Chaves got up but was saved by the bell. Mbenge picked up where he left off in the seventh, putting Chaves down again. His corner threw in the towel in what was Mbenge's 11th KO in 14 wins. Hooray! He won his fourth title, becoming the fourth local boxer to hold the IBO belt - others being Kevin Lerena, Simpiwe Khonco and Gideon Buthelezi.
What I know is that winning by virtue of an impressive KO will deodorise all the negatives.
We salute Mbenge, our young world champ. Bravo.