In a battle between two of South Africa's top fighters, Chris Van Heerden emerged with the IBO welterweight crown after 12 rounds of thrilling combat with Kaizer Mabuza last night at Emperor's Palace in Kempton Park.
Former domestic light welter champ Mabuza was coming off a failed bid to win the vacant IBF 140 lb bauble against Zab Judah in March and was making his debut appearance in the welterweight class.
Southpaw Van Heerden, South African welter titlist, came into the bout having won a tough IBO eliminator in June against Bongani Mwelase but was up against his most experienced foe to date.
Mabuza wasted no time once the bell rang, doing what he does best, coming forward and applying relentless pressure against Van Heerden, who lost the early rounds as he struggled to cope with his strong-willed opponent.
Once Van Heerden got Mabuza's rhythm down however, the lefty started to outbox the oppressive veteran, working well behind a strafing jab and high activity.
But Mabuza wouldn't be deterred, throwing hard punches and catching the less seasoned Van Heerden at times with surprising shots.
The Johannesburg man suffered a setback in the sixth when he lost a point for rabbit-punching Van Heerden.
Mabuza responded by stepping up his efforts as the contest turned into sheer trench warfare, with control and momentum passing among the boxers countless times.
After the smoke had cleared, Van Heerden was awarded a 117-112, 116-113 and 114-113 unanimous decision.
With the win, Van Heerden improves to 17-1-1 (10) while Mabuza loses his second world title fight in a row, falling to 23-8-3 (14).