'Tommy Gun' to return to ring

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

Johannesburg - Not for the first time, promoter Rodney Berman on Thursday announced the long-awaited return to the ring of fallen South African boxing idol Tommy Oosthuizen.

Once hailed as the "Golden Boy" of South African boxing, with a world ranking of sixth and higher in the super middleweight division and the low-key IBO title in his possession to boot, Oosthuizen has not appeared in the ring for almost a year.

Berman said Oosthuizen would make his comeback at Emperors Palace on November 15, with a fight against durable Russian Denis Grachev.

An endless number of personal problems and indiscretions resulted in a succession of proposed Oosthuizen bouts being called off during this period.

Berman at one stage proclaimed that he was "washing his hands" of the boxer.

"We've bent over backwards to accommodate Tommy because of his weight issues and other problems out of the ring," Berman had said at the time.

"We simply can't go on making excuses for his indiscretions."

Since those comments, Oosthuizen also relinquished his IBO title and revealed that when he resumed his career it would be in the heavier light-heavyweight division.

Despite this, the authoritative Ring magazine have continued to rate him at number eight in the super middleweight division.

"We've now had positive assurances from Oosthuizen's respected trainer, Harold Volbrecht, that Oosthuizen is now fit, eager to get back into the ring and determined to prove the doubters wrong who claimed his best days were over -- if not his career in its entirety," Berman said on Thursday.

"I'm confident we'll see Oosthuizen back in action next month.

"But, of course, after his lengthy break from boxing, we'll only know on the night which Tommy will be fighting."

Berman was quick to warn "Tommy Gun" not to expect an easy fight against his Russian opponent.

"One thing, for sure though, he's got a tough undertaking on his hands in Grachev, with the Russian proving his worth in the recent torrid bout against Rayno Liebenberg at Emperors Palace in spite of eventually losing."

Also on the November 15 bill is the unbeaten Kevin Lerena, who was matched against Johnny Muller in a cruiserweight contest in which both boxers' careers will be on the line for different reasons.

With 11 successive victories, Lerena will be out to prove he is ready to face fighters of high international class, while Muller will be required to show that his recent dismal defeat against Doudou Ngumbu in Monte Carlo did not herald the scaling down of his career.

In the third featured bout at Emperors Palace, Golden Gloves announced that classy South African, Ali Funeka, would meet unbeaten Russian Roman Balaev for the IBO welterweight title.

Balaev is ranked 37th in the welterweight division by the IBO, while Funeka is at 18 in the junior welterweight division, evidence, perhaps, of the curious manner in which the organisation often recognises questionable title fights.

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