Roarke Knapp, Ricardo Malajika win big in South Africa, Koopman-Thysse steals the show

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Roarke Knapp (left) vs. Przemyslaw Zysk (Photo by James Gradidge)

Roarke Knapp and Ricardo Malajika score big wins in South Africa.

Junior middleweight Roarke Knapp was in scintillating form Saturday night at Emperor’s Palace in Gauteng, South Africa. He became the first man to stop Przemyslaw Zysk, needing five rounds to get the job done.

The first round was a battle of jabs, with the taller Zysk throwing the punch to the head, while Knapp directed his to the body. The house fighter soon got close enough to land a chopping right, followed by a left hook to the body.

Zysk tried to drop his own straight right on Knapp in the next three rounds, but he was too slow and had to be content with landing the punch to the body. All the while, Knapp kept digging in vicious combinations to the body, ending with his left hook on top.

Knapp knocked Zysk back on his heels with a straight right in the third. That prompted the Polish fighter to come roaring back with his own shots, but Knapp was quicker and stronger and just landed that much harder, more often.

Knapp landed blistering combinations to the body in the fourth. He ended the sequence with a right hook to the head that shook Zysk, who simply had no quit in him.

Just when one started to wonder whether Zysk may be tough enough to carry on taking punishment and hang in there, the end came. A left hook to the body seemed to hurt him in the fifth, which prompted Knapp to go for the kill. A series of punches culminated in a straight right to the head which dropped Zysk heavily. He made it to his feet, but a left hook followed by a right put him on the ropes. He showed incredible courage to keep throwing back, but Knapp bounced power shot after power shot off his head until only the ropes were keeping him up. The referee mercifully intervened at the 2:45 mark.

Roarke Knapp takes his record to 17-1-1 with 12 knockouts while Zysk, whose only other loss was to Sam Eggington, drops to 18-2.

In the co-main event, junior bantamweight Ricardo Malajika put on a boxing clinic, winning a 12-round decision over Kevin Luis Munoz of Argentina. The unanimous scores of 118-110, 117-111 with a third card having it a shutout at 120-108, told the story of the fight.

Ricardo Malajika (right) vs. Kevin Munoz (Photo by James Gradidge)

Munoz rushed out of his corner in the opening round, guns blazing. Malajika went down in what was ruled a slip and Munoz got a warning for punching his opponent on the mat. The Argentinian corner protested, claiming a knockdown, but it was purely academic as Malajika was soon snapping his opponent’s head back with his jab, landing two straight right hands on the button.

That was the key to the fight. Malajika neutralized his opponent’s jab by getting his own going with regularity. From there he simply kept control of the distance, landed his straight right behind the jab and picked his spots.

Munoz tried his left hook to the head in the second, but Malajika saw it coming and blocked the punch. In the third, he attempted the left hook to the body, but that too struggled to land. Malajika simply nailed him with a left uppercut-straight right combination and went back to his jab.

The only punch Munoz could find some success with was the right uppercut and hook to the body, but he ate a lot of jabs and straight rights for his trouble. Every time he tried to push harder, Malajika responded with a combination to stop his momentum and then went back to boxing from a distance.

The pattern repeated itself round after round until Munoz finally had some success in the tenth, landing his left hook to the body and head while Malajika appeared to take a breather. 

That bit of success would be short-lived as Malajika got busy again with his jab in the eleventh and boxed in cruise control until the final bell.

It was a controlled display of ring generalship from Ricardo Malajika, who improves to 12-2 with nine knockouts while Kevin Luis Munoz drops to 16-2.

As good as the doubleheader was, albeit in different ways, it was the main supporting bout that stole the show.

Shervantaigh Koopman took a step up in class when he defended his national junior middleweight championship against the more seasoned Brandon Thysse. He passed his test when Thysse was retired by his corner at the start of the ninth round, giving him the stoppage victory, but it was far from easy. He had to dig deep in an all-out war.

Shervantaigh Koopman (left) vs. Brandon Thysse (Photo by James Gradidge)

Koopman, known as a slow starter, did the opposite and came out of his corner quickly in the first round, snapping Thysse’s head back with his jab and landing his straight right behind it. Thysse soon answered by cracking Koopman with a left hook-right uppercut combination. Koopman responded with more straight rights while Thysse dug in a left hook to the body.

In the second, Koopman continued landing his jab and seemed unable to miss Thysse with his straight right. Koopman was dominating on the outside, but whenever Thysse got close, he got his digs in to the body. Then, suddenly, Koopman landed a beautiful left hook as he turned Thysse around. Thysse, known for his solid chin, went down hard. He got to his feet and appeared groggy when the bell came to his rescue.

Koopman stayed on him in the third, driving him with his jab to the ropes, where he let rip with combinations. Thysse appeared to be getting out of the fog, landing a good right hook towards the end of the round.

Thysse started the fourth by weaving low under the punches. When he finally nailed Koopman with a solid combination that appeared to hurt him, he was given a point deduction for hitting behind the head. Taking a point appeared harsh, seeing that there was no warning preceding it. He stayed on Koopman and hurt him with a series of rights until a time out was called for a low blow. When the action resumed, Thysse landed another right on Koopman, who responded with a right uppercut of his own. A wobbly Koopman started fighting back as the round ended.

Thysse went after Koopman in the fifth, but Koopman nailed him with yet another straight right. The pair stood their ground and exchanged heavy hooks and uppercuts that had the crowd in a frenzy. Koopman finished the stronger, landing several left hooks before the bell rang.

Thysse dug in uppercuts to the body in the sixth but kept getting nailed from a distance. Koopman landed another huge right, followed by a left hook at the end of the round.

Koopman used his superior distance control in the seventh, jabbing and landing his straight right, now to the body as well. Thysse tried to bring his left hook into play, but Koopman checked him with his right uppercut every time he came close. Thysse did land a left hook-right hand combination, but Koopman went back to boxing from a distance as a close round ended.

Thysse tried to ambush Koopman at the start of the eighth, but Koopman responded by driving him back to the ropes with a combination, bringing his left hook into play. Finally, a big right on the button dumped Thysse on the canvas for a second time. Badly hurt, he managed to beat the count, but Koopman landed a huge right uppercut that snapped his head back. How he stayed on his feet and made it out of the round, only he will know.

Thysse had given his all and it was a wise decision not to let him go out for the ninth.

Shervantaigh Koopman survived a rocky fourth round to put in a career-best performance for his ninth stoppage win and kept his undefeated record intact at 12-0. His future can only be bright.

Brandon Thysse may drop to 15-4-1, but he once again proved himself a true warrior.

Undercard results:

Tristan Naidoo TKO 4 Justin Mostert (junior lightweight)

Odieu Dzabatou TKO 2 Keanu Koopman (welterweight)

Beaven Sibanda W UD 6 Mthokozisi Ngxaka (strawweight)

The card was presented by Rodney Berman of Golden Gloves Promotions.