Botha defeats Simba, White Buffalo continues to roam

by Mark Lovell: Last Saturday night Francois Botha handed undefeated 21yo Flo Simba his first defeat in front of a packed crowd in Kempton Park, South Africa, going some way to revitalizing the career of the 43yo former IBF champion.

The fight was much anticipated by the South African boxing community – Flo Simba, though untested against some far over-matched opponents and no amateur background to speak of, had impressed with 10 straight victories with nine knockouts while Botha is a well known and likeable figure. The pre-match buildup saw none of the bluster often seen before today's banner fights – the well-spoken Simba, who was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo and mixes his boxing career with his studies as an engineering student, gave much credit to his better known opponent. Botha meanwhile was more outspoken, promising that the White Buffalo would overcome the Black Panther. Out of action for over a year after his defeat against the aging Evander Holyfield, most had predicted defeat by KO for Botha (who weighed in at 263lb, 13lb heavier than his last fight) in a scenario similar to a compatriot: former WBO champion Corrie Sanders, who was defeated in one round by the younger, hungrier Osborne Machimana. As it turned out, the fight was evenly matched until a hard right followed by a rain of unanswered blows forced the referee to step in

In January, Botha had been arranged to fight another hot, young fighter – England's Tyson Fury; however, the British Board of Boxing refused to license the fight, saying Botha was overmatched by his 6'9, superbly monickered opponent. Instead of the then 47(28) – 5 Botha, whose only losses came against Michael Moorer, Wladimir Klitschko, Lennox Lewis, Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield, Fury was handed a Brazilian opponent who was knocked out in the fifth round. One has to wonder how an organization can deny a license to a fighter like Botha, whose only losses came against five current or world champions (four of which will undoubtedly be found soon or later in the Boxing Hall of Fame), while allowing Enzo Maccarinelli to continue to be knocked out in stomach-churning fashion by increasingly lesser opponents.

With this latest victory, Botha will hopefully have ensured that such a humiliating scenario can be seen as something definitely in the past. While a title shot at one of the major belts is unlikely, Botha has the ability to become a gatekeeper of the highest order. Up-and-comers such as Australian Alex Leapai, American Deontay Wilder or Englishmen Tom Dallas (who was very lucky to get a decision against a similar old master, Zack Page) and David Price would soon find out whether they had world class potential if they got in the ring with Botha, whose ring generalship, good chin and his willingness to use all the tricks of the trade (holding, mauling) would mean a stern test. David Tua, whose marque fights were in the same era as Botha's, might also consider picking up the phone if his rematch against Monte Barrett falls through. More likely is a rematch against Evander Holyfield: no doubt planning a win for Simba, promoter Rodney Berman had gone someway in arranging the winner to fight "The Real Deal“ and comments from him after Botha's surprising win indicated he would endeavor to fulfill his promise.

And so the old road warrior carries on. With his defeat of an opponent who was born the year Botha had his professional boxing debut, Francois Botha has shown himself and the boxing world that although he may be twenty years old than his opponents, he is one buffalo who is not quite ready to be put out to pasture.

Article posted on 07.06.2011

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