Boxing at Emperors Palace, Saturday 9th August 2014

opening shot

This was far more of an arse on than it should have been. The date had been mentioned a few months earlier by the promoter and so I tried to be clever and book a hotel room well in advance. Unfortunately the boxing clashed with a flower-arranging convention or something that was popular enough to sell out half the hotels and double the prices in the rest.

I eventually got fixed up by trying far more accommodation websites than I suspect would be regarded as normal and then by some crafty manipulation of the ticking system managed to obtain two central ringside seats. All good. So what was the problem? Well, one of the scheduled boxers suffered an unexpected defeat in a warm up fight whilst another was rumoured to be somewhat reluctant to take a drugs test. This resulted in the bill being called off and our tickets being refunded. I cancelled the room.

Three days later and the promoter announces a new boxing bill. At the same venue. On the same night. Oh great. So I have go through it all again and secure what was possibly the same hotel room and then another pair of front row tickets.

Emperors Palace is a strange place. Primarily a casino, but with hotels, restaurants and a few shops adding to the options. I’m not too impressed with it as a gambling venue as despite the roulette wheels, black jack and poker tables, it’s much more penny arcade than James Bond. Mind you, that’s exactly what I thought of Las Vegas too.

You'll have to imagine the noise.

You’ll have to imagine the noise.

Like many casinos, they aren’t keen on natural light. Emperors Palace addresses the issue by having a fake sky for a ceiling and then remaining in a permanent state of dusk. As someone who falls asleep far too readily these days I reckon it works pretty well. In fact, I’d install it in houses. There have been times at Emperors Palace where we’ve been eating and drinking into the early hours and it’s felt as if it were no later than teatime.

It's indoors, yet outdoors.

It’s indoors, yet outdoors.

Our seats turned out to be the best we could have bought. We were centrally placed meaning that we didn’t have a cornerpost cameraman blocking the view and we were in Row A. The only downside was that we were behind a section of six rows of complimentary seating occupied by people who spent the whole evening wandering around their section hugging all of the other ‘faces’.

I’d have liked to have been able to wander around and change seats too, that way we wouldn’t have had to put up with the prick sat behind us who amused himself by shouting non-stop ‘advice’ to the boxers or ‘compliments’ to the ring girls. The tedium of hearing the same comments yelled round after round meant that I ended up hoping that every boxer he was supporting got sparked out cold at the earliest opportunity.

The first bout involved a featherweight called Ramagole who had lost the last time we were here. I got the impression that his defeat wasn’t something that the promoter had intended and this time he was given an easier opponent. By the time it reached the third round the other fella had lost interest in being bopped on the nose and so turned his back and quit.

It didn't last much longer.

It didn’t last much longer.

Next up was a lightweight fight between Ashley Dlamini and Thanduxolo Dyani. Dyani had made a promising start to his career by winning his first eleven fights but had then lost his last three. Make that four defeats in a row as Dlamini put him on his arse in the first round causing the ref to wave it off.

This one was over even quicker.

This one was over even quicker.

We then had a contest over eight rounds featuring local cruiserweight Kevin Lerena. You might not recognise the name from Boxing News, but if you’ve been following the Pistorious trial he’s the fella that Oscar accidentally shot in the foot whilst fiddling with a pistol under the table in a restaurant. Marcos Antonii Ahumada caused him fewer problems than the Olympic sprinter had done and Lerena took a one sided decision.

Lerena is the Pirates fan.

Lerena is in the Pirates shorts.

In the fourth fight of the evening the reigning IBO super-bantamweight champion Thabo Sonjica had failed to make the weight. Actually, not only did he fail to make the super-bantamweight limit, he didn’t even manage to make featherweight either, weighing in five pounds heavier than he needed to be.

He forfeited his title, but the fight went ahead anyway and not surprisingly his additional bulk made all the difference against a smaller opponent who, when he wasn’t being smacked in the chops, spent too much time grinning at the people behind us shouting advice.

The added advantage of a ref who appeared to favour the home fighter meant an easy points win for Sonjica who no doubt made straight for a restaurant to scoff a few more pies.

Big fella on the ropes.

Big fella on the ropes.

The main event saw the WBC light-heavyweight silver champion Ryno Liebenburg take on Denis Grachev, a Russian who modelled himself on Ivan Drago, even to the extent of having ‘Drago’s Son’ on his shorts.

At a pre-fight press conference, Ryno, who somewhat oddly chose to ignore the obvious nickname and opt for ‘The Lion’ instead, threatened to knock the Russian’s teeth out. Staying in character, son of Drago limited himself to a curt “You talk too much”.

Liebenburg sustained a nasty cut in the first round, but evened things up soon after. Again, I thought the ref favoured the home fighter. The judges didn’t seem any better and with it being a WBC title fight their scores were revealed after four and eight rounds. Or rather they were announced half-way through the fifth and ninth rounds. How distracting must that be for the boxers? Surely it isn’t beyond the officials to tot up the scores within the minute break between rounds?

Ryno 'the lion'.

I had the fight a lot closer than the 116-112, 117-112 and the laughable 120-108 scores, but the crowd went home happy, whilst the promoter‘s plans for Liebenberg remained on track. And despite it being close to midnight, we were able to head back out into the dusk.


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