Big time boxing comes Down Under on Friday night as Indonesian national hero and WBA featherweight “super” champion Chris John puts his crown at risk against South Africa’s Simpiwe Vetyeka at the Thunderdome in Perth.
John, 48-0-3 (22), has held the WBA title since 2004, retaining it 17 consecutive times and this occasion marks the third time he’s come to Australia with the black and gold belt on offer.
Facing “The Dragon” in Perth will be South Africa’s Vetyeka, 25-2 (15), 32 years old from Duncan Village on the Eastern Cape, who may have provided John with extra incentive this past May.
That’s when Vetyeka came to Jakarta and dramatically halted Indonesia’s second most popular boxer, Daud Cino Yordan, in the 12th round for the IBO strap on the undercard of John’s most recent fight.
This could be an interesting clash as Vetyeka is no stranger to big fights, having made eight defenses of the South African bantam title and produced wins in bouts for the IBO bantam title and a WBC super bantam final eliminator.
The pinnacle of the career of “V12” however, was a competitive but failed 2007 attempt to knock off WBC bantam king Hozumi Hasegawa in Japan. This is balanced against the surprising loss last year to former domestic bantam champ Klaas Mboyane.
Vetyeka ironed things out with the win over Yordan but it’s an open question as to how he will fare against the heavily experienced John, who holds a victory, disputed or not – it was a very close fight, over a prime featherweight-era Juan Manuel Marquez in 2006.
But the longtime WBA champ hasn’t got near that level since, knocking down a succession of lesser grade opponents aside from a controversial 2009 draw against Rocky Juarez, and perhaps John is ready for a fall?
That would be a very unlikely result in Indonesia but fortunately for Vetyeka, this one is in Australia and the South African will probably make the best of this chance, knowing that he can’t wait another six years for a third world title shot.
Stylistically, the champion and the challenger are polar opposites. John is a tightly composed boxer who advances behind a sturdy jab that goes both upstairs and down, poking holes in defenses and encouraging opponents to throw punches back so they can be countered by the Semarang man’s arsenal.
Vetyeka has a much looser, improvisational style featuring a lot of head movement, awkward ducks and slips coupled with jabs and counter punches that can come from odd angles that are difficult to defend against.
John is definitely favored to retain his belt for the umpteenth time but he’ll have take away Vetyeka’s confidence early and then stay focused for all twelve rounds as the challenger has shown in the past that he can be dangerous late in fights.