Tuesday, January 31, 2023  |


Brandon Thysse and Roarke Knapp meet again in South African grudge match

Brandon Thysse

Junior middleweights Brandon Thysse and Roarke Knapp will finally run it back Saturday night at Emperor’s Palace, Gauteng, South Africa. The 12-round headliner is a rematch of their 2019 encounter which ended in a seventh-round knockout for Thysse.

That fight was part of a four-man junior middleweight tournament. The charismatic Knapp was the popular choice to prevail in the tournament. If not him, then there was former MMA star turned boxer, Boyd Allen, whom others expected to prevail. Thysse was the dark horse, the one who was expected to put up a good show but not to win the fight (let alone the whole tournament) but that is exactly what he did.

He destroyed Allen in three rounds in the final, reversing an earlier decision loss. Suddenly he was the danger man on the local scene and opponents weren’t exactly lining up. That led to his first international encounter when he faced off against Tomi Silvennoinen in June of last year. A consistent body attack led to Thysse becoming the first man to stop the Fin, ending matters in the tenth round.

With his record now standing at 14-2-1 with 12 knockouts, Thysse has become one of the most improved fighters on the South African scene. A solid jab and ripping uppercut were always there but the hooks to the body coupled with his new-found confidence have added to his arsenal.

Knapp, for his part, has won four in row since then, all of them inside the distance, bringing his record to 13-1-1 with 11 knockouts.

Roarke Knapp

Still, he almost did not make it to Saturday night. In his last fight in December of last year he faced Cristiano Ndombassy.  Ndombassy came in as a last-minute substitute when Thysse had to pull out after a positive COVID19 test. After boxing in cruise control for the first two rounds, all hell broke loose in the third when Ndombassey nailed Knapp with a terrific right, planting him on the canvas. He somehow made it to his feet but went down for two more official knockdowns. No one would have blamed the referee had he stopped the contest, but Knapp somehow saw out the round. He also had a little bit of luck on his side, since the third man ignored the three-knockdown rule (it was for a regional WBA title).

What happened in the next round though, had nothing to do with luck. Knapp got out of the fog and turned the tables, battering Ndombassy along the ropes who retired in his corner at the start of the fifth round.

Roarke Knapp can punch, has lots of heart and an aggressive style that brings in the crowds, but will that be enough to reverse his loss to Thysse Saturday night? Will there be lingering effects from the near knockout in his last fight?

Thysse for his part, had been less active since they last met. He also had to deal with the loss of his father, former South African and Commonwealth super middleweight champion Andre Thysse, who succumbed to COVID19.

In the main supporting bout, South African heavyweight champion Joshua Pretorius defends his title against Chris Thompson over 12 rounds. This too is a rematch, although under different circumstances. The two made their pro debuts against each other in 2017, with Thompson prevailing by decision.

The undercard will feature five four-rounders with no less than eight fighters making their pro debuts.

One of them will be the 2020 Olympic featherweight bronze medalist, Samuel Takyi from Ghana. He will be facing 4-1 Mandlenkosi Sibuso in a junior lightweight bout.

Female amateur prodigy, Yolandi Gelderblom, will also make her debut at lightweight against Sazisiwe Simon. The 18-year-old Gelderblom was a three-time national champion in the unpaid ranks.

The tournament is presented by Rodney Berman of Golden Gloves Promotions.