Young Lions - by Terry Pettifer

If there has ever been a sweeter or swifter right-hand punch to the jaw than that with which Mlungisi “The Shark” Dlamini knocked out Zolani “The Untouchable” Marali, at 2:59 seconds of the 4th round, at Emperors Palace on 31 October 2009, to win the vacant IBO world lightweight title, then it has escaped both my attention and memory! Indeed, in what the organizers billed as “DAMOCLES”, the blockbuster event was one to savour in terms of savage application and nail-biting tension.

The portents signified an explosive night at the office for most of Golden Gloves Promotions “young lions”- as consortium CEO Rodney Berman is apt to call his clutch of blossoming young stars – and in accordance with the week’s feverish swing in the betting, one sensed there’d be the odd surprise or two!

Well, there definitely were, and whereas bookmakers failed to anticipate the brutal mechanics that saw 18-10 underdog Mlungisi Dlamini effectively burst the untouchable “bubble” that was created around former four-time world champion Zolani Marali, they also failed to spot the creative flair and terrier-like tenacity that made Isaac “The Golden Boy” Chilemba the new WBC International light heavyweight champion, by virtue of a hard-fought 12-round points decision over hitherto unbeaten Doudou Ngumbu of the Congo.

Dlamini, whose now undefeated in 21 fights, with 10 knockouts, started his
bout with former buddy Marali like a chess master looking for an opening, and may have lost two of the first two rounds before uncorking that memorable right hander
that rewrote the destiny of the IBO lightweight throne! Yes, there had been quite a
bit of banter and sword rattling prior to this potentially fiery encounter, but like most ringsiders, your writer was stunned by the picture-perfect punch that flattened the 32-year-old Marali and may effectively have ended his career.

One veteran reporter, who has been around sweaty boxing gymnasiums for close to forty years, in fact called the Dlamini showstopper, “One of the deadliest one-punch knockouts in local ring history” while another less seasoned but similarly awed scribe referred to it as “A boltfrom-the-blue”.

Mind you, Dlamini’s well versed trainer Warren Hulley had been quietly alluding
to just such an end to this eagerlyawaited championship fight and no doubt his hours and months of patient council were justly rewarded. “I’ve been saying for a long while that Mlungisi has the talent and dedication to become a world class champion and tonight you saw for yourself,” said a jubilant Hulley. Certainly the predatory Shark trashed the pre-advanced notion that Marali’s southpaw stance and blistering combinations would pave the foundation to victory, and even trainer Colin Nathan was moved to exclaim, “Zolani was hit with an express-train right hand that would have knocked out any lightweight in the world”. As to his dejected fighter’s immediate future, Nathan added, “It’s really too soon to say. Right now I’d like him to go home and spend Christmas with his family, before we sit down to discuss his future as a fighter”.

And Dlamini? Reminding us that his triumph was born of resolve, cradled in determination and fashioned in sweat, the 26-year-old warrior from KwaZulu-Natal, was resplendent as he discussed the humbling of Marali, whose record now drops to 20-4, like a surgeon would detailing a successful disemboweling. “I was looking to
draw him into my right (hand) and it worked perfectly. I mean I could feel that punch all the way down to my boxing boots”” said the new IBO world champion. “No, I can’t say whether or not I think he should retire, because in my book he’s still a fine fighter”. A commendably cordial comment I’d say in comparison to all
the harsh words and head-to-head antagonism that was evident earlier in the week.