Sharp-eyed Ellis weighs in on Mchunu v Muller

Posted on Posted in South African Boxers

The cruiserweight shootout between Thabiso Mchunu and Johnny Muller ought to be a cracking affair. Picture: N-SQUARED


With a boxing career spanning 55 years, encompassing amateur and pro fighting, managing, promoting, matchmaking and administering, Jeff Ellis has more than earned his dues. He’s a boxing savant who has already forgotten what most of us are yet to learn about the sweet science. He’s seen a few fights through the years. June’s big one – Thabiso Mchunu versus Johnny Muller has him fired up.

Were you surprised the fight was made?
‘Yes and no. I’ll tell you why. At one point Mchunu was looking world title bound. Then he lost to Junior Makabu, which shocked me. It set him back, as did his recent loss to Oleksandr Usyk. So I’m not surprised the Muller fight is happening.
‘[Trainer] Harold Volbrecht is a shrewd operator. When you’ve got a tiger – and that’s all you can call Johnny – all he does is come to fight. It could be a helluva fight. And don’t forget, this kid beat Kevin Lerena, who’s running hot.’

What does Johnny need to bring to the table?
‘The big thing is fitness. Brian Mitchell was a real model of that philosophy. Brian did everything right because he was so fit. If Johnny’s fitter than he’s ever been, he has an excellent chance. If not, forget it.’

What does Thabiso need to bring to the table?
‘He has the ability to beat anyone. The problem is he slows down dramatically. The fitter guy will win next weekend, not necessarily the guy who comes to fight.’

We know that Johnny can be stopped. Does Thabiso have the tools to do so?
‘Yes. At one point Thabiso was one of the biggest talents around. The problem was he was too muscle-bound; it slowed him. He’s got to work hard and be very fit.’



Does Johnny have the tools to beat Thabiso or stop him?
‘In that division they’re bothy good enough to stop one another. I keep going back to fitness. Johnny can’t go in like usual – Thabiso will catch him. Johnny must work from behind the jab.’

Style-wise, how does this pan out?
‘Johnny can be over-excitable. He doesn’t know when to stop; it’s make or break. He needs to calm down and look for openings. If he runs in, he’ll get hurt. Thabiso has a lot of power. He’s extremely dangerous if you’re coming at him. He always fights off the back foot and Johnny will be coming for him.’

Is size a factor?
‘The one guy is tall and lean, the other is short and muscular. We look at Thabiso as half-size. He’s a short, small guy and fights out of a crouch. He’s awkward and his defence is pretty good. If Johnny’s wild, that will suit him. The way Johnny should fight is use good body shots consistently, take the right hand to the body.’

How will Johnny cope with Thabiso’s southpaw stance?
‘He’s boxed one of the best in Lerena and no-one knows more about left-handers than Harold. There isn’t a better teacher for Johnny. He’s got to be sensible and then he’ll have a chance – provided he’s super-fit.’

The winner will still be in the mix. Where will the loser go?
‘It’s a difficult one. Once you’re off the international scene, options are limited. They’ll always be South African level, but that’s not where they will want to end it. Both fighters are young and still have fight in them. The loser won’t be finished, but he’ll never be near the top 20 again.’

SuperSport festival of boxing at Emperors Palace

The lowdown on the two tournaments – “Showstoppers” on April 23 and “Hurtin’ for Certain” on June 10.April 23rd, 2017
The first event is topped by the SA welterweight championship between Shaun Ness and Thulani Mbenge with the winner touted to fight WBO number 15 Jay Inson later in the year. The fight will be for Mbenge’s ABU crown. The DeeJay Kriel-Xolisa Magusha fight also has people talking, among them Berman, who believes that the winner will become the heir apparent to Simpiwe Konkco. He’s also matched house fighter Lucky Monyebane against Ashley Dlamini for the Gauteng title and makes no bones about his affection for Monyebane, who is the product of a partnership between Golden Gloves and the Hammanskraal community where Monyebane hails from. In a curious twist, four former SA amateur champions will all box on the undercard, among them highly-touted Ricky Tshabalala, in what is surely a first for SA boxing. Berman added that Kevin Lerena would fight on the same bill given the issues he is having travelling to the US next month. The anticipated change means it will most likely be a keep-busy fight rather than a top-level one. The cruiserweight will then definitely fight in the US on Boo Boo Andrade’s undercard in June. Having been repeatedly prodded by Johnny Muller about a third fight between the pair – they are one win apiece – Lerena said he was chasing down bigger names. He did, however, offer a glimmer of hope, saying that in the event of him winning a belt, he would give Muller a fair crack. “For now,” he quipped, “if it doesn’t make money, it doesn’t make sense.” Berman also revealed that Xolisani Ndongeni would probably fight on a Western Cape tournament in late May to keep the cobwebs from setting in. He, too, ought to get his crack in the US before long. The June tournament is headlined by Thabiso Mchunu against Johnny Muller, a fight that has all the hallmarks of a terrific South African scrap. Muller is truly at the crossroads. A win would resuscitate his flagging career, but a loss would be catastrophic. Muller said that as a light-heavyweight his style was to “pik pik” (tap tap) his opponents, but he vowed to hit far harder at cruiserweight, as he must if he hopes to defeat Mchunu. Mchunu also needs to show something special if he is to rebound from his title setback against Oleksandr Usyk. The ABU belt will be on the line, too, so there’s much to fight for between the cruiserweights. IBO boss Konkco will also feature, against Lito Donte, all part of Berman’s grand design of making the South African the leading strawweight in the world. The SA man will have his work cut out for him. At the weekend Donte put paid to Jay Loto’s unbeaten run with a 12-round beatdown for the WBC International title in Manila. Another top match-up pits SA super-middleweight champion Lee Dyer against Alfonso Tissen for the ABU title

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