Oosthuizen ready for 'murder'

Tommy Oosthuizen (Gallo Images)
Tommy Oosthuizen (Gallo Images)

Johannesburg - There could be dire consequences for his opponent Ryno Liebenberg in a forthcoming grudge match at Emperors Palace, suggested Tommy Oosthuizen on Wednesday.

"I'm no criminal, but it could be murder," Oosthuizen said of the March 21 IBO light-heavyweight title fight between the pair, which was officially launched at SuperSport in Johannesburg.

It was boxing ballyhoo at its best and most boisterous, with former IBO super middleweight champion Oosthuizen explaining the reasons for his protracted absence from the ring of more than a year.

"Yes I did go overboard partying and such-like but the boo boys were on my back in no time and started to berate me and call me a criminal. The only person I was hurting out there was myself," he said.

"But I've learnt a lesson and am now training harder and showing more dedication to my boxing than ever and Liebenberg is going to feel the consequences of coming up against a fighter who will be better than ever."

Liebenberg, however, was unimpressed and challenged Oosthuizen to settle the issue there and then, physically harassing him at a photo session before officials had to pull the two boxers apart.

And getting into the act was Oosthuizen's trainer and former South African champion, Harold Volbrecht, who threatened to "knock Liebenberg's block off myself" if he carries on with his antics.

"It's no secret that Oosthuizen and Liebenberg have long wanted to get into the same ring together," said Golden Gloves promoter Rodney Berman.

Oosthuizen recently returned to boxing to retain his unbeaten record, but with what was at best a lukewarm victory over Russian journeyman Denis Grachev.

"It's the fight I've been waiting for to prove a point for a couple of years," was Liebenberg's reaction.

"Let's get on with the business and rock and roll."

Berman said both boxers had an army of loyal supporters.

"They have been clamouring for this fight," he said.

"I had not put it on previously because their careers were heading in different directions. But circumstances have changed and it's now right to bring them together and settle the argument once and for all.

"Both need a victory to put their careers back on track."

Liebenberg, after his recent defeat against the formidable Eleider Alvarez in Monte Carlo, is eager to show he still has what it takes to be a world champion.

"I had previously believed that Tommy would have too much skill for Ryno," said Berman.

"But he was all over the place for much of his 11th round TKO win over Grachev and if Liebenberg lands as many blows as Grachev did, it could be all over. Ryno, for sure, punches a lot harder than the Russian.

"Tommy has all the skill in the world, but he let himself down against Grachev after his long lay-off. I don't know what he was thinking fighting at close-range when he would have been so much better fighting from the outside with his height and reach advantage."

And, in truth, the one-time golden boy of South African boxing, who was renowned for his dancing feet and snappy punching power, looked ponderous in his movement and fought more like a heavyweight.

The March 21 bill will also feature both Johnny Muller and Kevin Lerena after the two popular, but contrasting fighters had put on an all-action, crowd-pleasing performance at Emperors Palace last month. Muller bounced back from a recent disappointing defeat in Monte Carlo with a relentless points victory.

Berman revealed he would be attending the forthcoming WBC Convention and would lobby for the winner of the Oosthuizen-Liebenberg fight to be given a shot at the organisation's more prestigious title, currently held by Adonis Stevenson.

The IBO belt is not recognised by the four major boxing associations - the WBA, WBC, IBF and WBO - or the authoritative Ring magazine and this is partly explained by the expansive manner in which the IBO sanctions its title fights.

Oosthuizen and Liebenberg are not rated among the top 10 by any of the other boxing associations, yet they will be fighting for the IBO title in spite of the fact that the two boxers are only ranked sixth and 21st by the IBO organisation itself.

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