There is some serious talent in the junior middleweight division. There is the RING champ, Jermell Charlo, with all of the major belts. Tim Tszyu of Australia signaled his arrival among the elite of the division with an impressive beatdown of Tony Harrison this past weekend. Liam Smith is very much in the mix after his stunning knockout of Chris Eubank Jr. In fact, there is not a weak spot in the top 10 with every contender bringing their own unique package to the table.
Outside of the top dogs, over in South Africa, there is an exciting young fighter who is making waves. Roarke Knapp (15-1-1, 11 knockouts) had a standout 2022. He reversed his only loss to Brandon Thysse, edging a split decision in an all-out war last June. Then he put on a boxing clinic against the dangerous Dante Jardon after sending the hard hitting Mexican down in the third, winning a unanimous decision in December.
He will be taking another significant step up in class this Saturday at Emperor’s Palace in Gauteng, South Africa when he faces the vastly more experienced former French and European champion Ahmed El Mousaoui.
El Mousaoui has a very respectable 34-4-1 (8 KOs) record and has faced some big names with mixed success. He dropped a split decision to undefeated David Papot in his last fight in an All-French clash.
“I think I did enough to win that fight, but it was in his hometown,” said El Mousaoui. He also has wins over former beltholders, Junior Witter and Carlos Molina and dropped a competitive decision to Jeff Horn in Australia. He has never been stopped. When questioned about his opponents, El Mousaoui replied, “I can’t really say who was the toughest. They were all different, good at their own things.”
Unlike Jardon, the French boxer is not known as a big puncher, having only eight stoppages on his record. He is, however, a much more skilled fighter than the Mexican plodder, with quick hands and feet. It is safe to say that rather than a dangerous opponent, Knapp is now facing his most difficult and seasoned opponent to date. It will be interesting to see how he will handle the movement and speed of the French fighter.
Neither wants to make a prediction. “I don’t make predictions,” said the Frenchman. “Only God knows.” “The prediction is always the same,” said Knapp. “Leave it all out in the ring.”
Knapp is an exciting crowd pleaser who has shown that he has a big heart and can box as well as fight. If he is going to be more than a local attraction, he will have to find a way past Ahmed El Mousaoui on Saturday night.
Another fighter who is in deep, is 10-2 junior bantamweight, Ricardo Malajika. An excellent amateur, he has had his ups and downs as a pro, dropping decisions to countrymen, Sabelo Ngebinyana and Sikho Nqothole.
Two fights back in the win column, he gets a chance to right the ship against hard charging Filipino Adrian Lerasan in the main supporting bout over ten rounds. The 12-4 Lerasan has won five in a row, his last four by way of knockout in Thailand.
He also enjoys a top ten ranking in the WBC which is something Malajika is after. “We needed to close some holes after those losses. I am grateful for this opportunity, this is what I have been hoping for. I promise to win this fight. I am still the ‘Magic Man’ and I will be world champion one day.”
When questioned on the risk posed by the visitors, Rodney Berman of Golden Gloves Promotions replied, “The only way to keep boxing going in South Africa is through competitive fights. The fighters must step up.”
Undefeated 10-0 South African junior middleweight champion, Shervantaigh Koopman makes his return after an absence of almost a year. He has been recovering from an injury to his left elbow. He will be defending his belt over 12 rounds against the 6-1-1 challenger, Jackson Kaptein.