Sebastiaan Rothmann of South Africa had a most exciting career, during which he won both the WBU and IBO cruiserweight titles. Rothmann, forever remembered here in the UK for his incredible, back and forth war with Carl Thompson, also went in with champions O’Neil Bell and Steve Cunningham, along with top European names such as Mark Hobson, Crawford Ashley, Gary Delaney, and Rob Norton. Also, Rothmann fought Jorge Castro.
Looking back on his 18-6-2(12) career, 46-year-old Rothmann says that, above all else, he is grateful for the career he had. Having wanted to be a boxer as a young man but discouraged by his parents, Rothmann persuaded his parents to buy him boxing magazines to aid his reading skills. Sure enough, Rothmann’s marks at school improved, and soon he was realizing his dream of being a fighter.
Here the former champ speaks with ESB:
Q: You faced so many quality fighters, big names, all with just a relatively short number of pro fights, with you having just 26 pro bouts in all?
Sebastiaan Rothmann: “Yes, my career was something of a miracle in a way. I started boxing at age 18, and I never expected to fight so many big names – guys I looked up to. We followed the UK scene here in South Africa, and I looked up to the likes of Chris Eubank and Nigel Benn. Also, Glenn McCrory who defeated the great Siza Makhathini. Some of the guys I fought, they have kept in touch. Crawford Ashley called me during the pandemic.”
Q: You actually lost your pro debut on points. How discouraging was that, if at all?
S.R: “It was because you always want to have an unbeaten record. But it also gave me opportunities, as guys looked at me and knew I’d lost and then fought me. But I was so much better than my early record made it look. I was 3-1-2 over my first six fights.”
Q: You soon became a top contender, and you fought and defeated a number of big British names – Rob Norton, Mark Hobson, Crawford Ashley, Gary Delaney.
S.R: “Correct. Gary Delaney, he was tough as nails! That was such a hard fight; I was lucky I had the boxing skills to beat him. The Rob Norton fight means a lot to me.”
Q: But the fight you are best known for, at least in the UK, is the classic war you had with Carl Thompson. What a great fight that was, with you both being down, hurt, and then coming back.
S.R: “They call him The Cat! His heart was amazing; Carl could really dig deep. Carl is the kind of guy who, if you aren’t fighting him yourself, you root for him. I was at my best technically for that fight; there are no excuses. It was an honor to share the ring with him.”
Q: Did you not have a bad hand going into that fight?
S.R: “No, I did not. My hands were fine. I had fights that were on and off before that fight, but no excuses at all. You can never take anything away from Carl Thompson. In that fight, he went up a level, and he survived everything that I could give (sensationally KO’ing Rothmann in the ninth round when seemingly all but finished himself).”
Q: When you are in a classic fight like that, a slugfest, do you know you are involved in something special?
S.R: “No. In all honesty, I was just trying to get the “W.” I was just doing my job, just trying to get through it. I hate losing, but in that fight, I gave my all, and Carl was the better man.”
Q: Before that fight, you defeated Jorge Castro by decision.
S.R: “He was so tough, so clever. I hit him with my jab, which was my best weapon. Then I hit him with non-stop jabs. He dipped his head, and I was hitting the top of his head. My hands began to hurt. He was such a smart guy. He was tough, of course, but he was clever. He would do next to nothing in a round before coming on in the last 20 seconds or so of the round to make me look bad. I learned so much in that fight about how to avoid taking punishment. He was really a genius.”
Q: And after the loss to Thompson, you went in with an unbeaten Steve Cunningham.
S.R: “Correct. A very classy fighter. It was a majority decision loss for me. His hands were so much faster than mine. I think that’s the only fight where I was outboxed. Steve is a real workhorse.”
Q: Then, in another great action fight, you fought O’Neil Bell for the IBF title. Your only fight in America?
S.R: “Yes, I sparred in America, I sparred Corrie Sanders in the US, but I had just one fight there. I’d have loved to have fought more in the US. The people are great, and I love America. That loss to Bell, it hurt me more than the Thompson loss because I was better prepared, and I think I had a better game-plan in that fight – just basic boxing, no flashy stuff. The only thing bad I would say about that fight was the number of low blows I was hit with – it was easily double figures. But he came back and got me with a short right. And I can tell you, being given oxygen in the ring is no great experience. But he was another tough guy and a strong puncher.”
Q: Was it easy for you to retire when you did in 2008?
S.R: “No, not easy at all. You live for so long as a sportsman, and living the life, you become that person, and you believe everything that is said about you. I was kind of losing touch with reality. But my wife, my family, they were instrumental in me getting through that period. I have been very lucky as a personal trainer, which keeps me busy. In life, you work until age 65, and then you get your pension. As a sportsman, it can be over within one second, and when it’s gone, it’s hard. But I am so grateful for my career. I looked up to the kind of guys I ended up fighting. It was an amazing career I had.”