Tommy Oosthuizen: Requiem for a light heavyweight

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

Cape Town - Remember Rod Serling's searing "Requiem for a Heavyweight" saga?

Now, in what looms as the pugilistic demise of one-time "Golden Boy" of South African boxing Tommy Oosthuizen, the tragic tale might well be termed "Requiem for a Light Heavyweight."

The 27-year-old East Rand-born boxer was this week the only one of five South Africans to lose his place among the respected Ring magazine "Top 10" in their respective divisions - WBA strawweight champion Hekkie Budler, Zolani Tete (number four among the junior bantamweights), number five flyweight Moruti Mthalane and sixth-ranked featherweight Simpiwe Vetyeka are those who managed to hold onto the honour.

But this relegation might be the least of the problems facing the ostracised and disgraced Oosthuizen after his withdrawal from next month's WBA light heavyweight title fight against German Juergen Braehmer because he was simply in no physical or mental condition to fulfil the undertaking.

What makes this immature lapse so threatening to Oosthuizen's boxing career is the fact that it is only the latest indiscretion in an unending pattern of behavioural flaws that have blighted him over the past two years.

"This is the final nail in the coffin," was how Golden Gloves promoter Rodney Berman, who has organised almost all of Oosthuizen's 27 fights in a career of 25 wins and two draws, summed it up.

"Tommy's finished as a boxer," added Berman. "I can't see him having another fight. The stark reality is he's both a drug addict and an alcoholic, who seems beyond any help in spite of how hard we have tried.

"Unfortunately, there are now major repercussions. His highly-respected trainer, Harold Volbrecht, has been destroyed by the turn of events. Many people are angry and bitterly disappointed. And it can't be swept under the carpet any longer."

And this is what the shattered Volbrecht, himself a former South African champion of renown, had to say of his charge's fall from grace.

"I've pulled him out bars, bailed him out of police stations," said Volbrecht. "I've got him out of street fights and my wife, Michelle, feel betrayed. We've tried for so long to keep him on the right road."

And it is this footnote to what is effectively a boxing requiem that highlights the tragic turn of events.

"He could have become one of the greats of South African boxing," said Volbrecht. "Now he's wasted everything."

An imposing 6ft 4in tall and strikingly well-built, Oosthuizen displayed all the potential to become a genuine world-class champion on the murky stage of international boxing when he burst onto the scene as a super-middleweight, with exceptional speed to boot for someone his size.

It was just the kind of blossoming hero South African boxing cried out for to renew interest and enthusiasm in a sport that had sunk into the doldrums in the country.

But, as Volbrecht lamented, it's all been wasted. Oosthuizen still managed to remain unbeaten in his 27 fights and became champion of the less-recognised IBO organisation, despite several mediocre performances in the latter stages of his career against journeymen opponents.

A glimmer of the old Oosthuizen appeared in the impressive mauling of fellow-South African Rayno Liebenberg for the IBO light heavyweight title last year.

But the writing was on the wall when the erstwhile "Golden Boy" had to forfeit the title in his very next fight because he could not make the weight.

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