The curse of Rocky Marciano strikes again as longtime WBA featherweight champ Chris John was denied improving his record to 49-0 by South African spoiler Simpiwe Vetyeka, who took John’s crown and undefeated record at The Thunderdome in Perth, Australia last night.
The pair wasted no time studying the other, going at it from the first bell. John stalked behind the jab but aside from a late round combination to the head and body of the challenger, had difficulty landing cleanly during a rough round that saw some rabbit punching in clinches from the champ.
The taller Vetyeka proved to be slippery, evading most of the champs efforts in the first round, striking back with an awkward style, landing right hands to the head but it was good work to the body which seemed to bother John the most.
John had a better first half of the next round, seeming to have the timing of Vetyeka, blocking the challenger’s efforts while landing the jab and good left hooks and rights on the inside.
Then John started to load up on his efforts and that allowed Vetyeka to get back in the fight somewhat, again going to the body and also scoring with a couple of rights to the head.
The round ended in brawling fashion, which seemed to suit the challenger better. John tripped twice in the round and seems to be running a bit low on energy. Perhaps after 17 title defenses at 126 pounds, he is having difficulty still making the weight?
John was cut above the left eye in the first round and the area started to swell by the end of the second frame.
The champ continued to brawl with Vetyeka in the third, having snatches of success – at one point battering the South African in a corner – but was taking punches from the challenger, who stayed on the outside before darting in with slashing jabs and hammering rights to the side of John’s head.
The rough tactics continued in the third during clinches, this time from both men, prompting a telling off of the pair by referee Gustavo Padilla, but the rabbit punches, headlocks and head clashes still occurred.
The fourth round saw both fighters vie for control with neither getting on top but it did seem that Vetyeka was the fresher man and could take the punishment and rough tactics better.
The fifth was back and forth until the end when John went down, ruled a slip, from a combination of a Vetyeka left hand and then a right arm that sort of wrangled the champion’s head and neck.
When John regained his footing, it was clear that he was hurt from the encounter and Vetyeka went after him full bore, hammering the Indonesian until the bell rang with John clutching the challenger’s legs to keep from going down.
John had recovered by the time the sixth started and fought Vetyeka on even terms for most of the round but was shaken by a right hand with 45 seconds remaining.
The visitor mounted a stern offensive and knocked John down with a hard right to the side of his head. John beat the count but looked wobbly and exhausted, managing to stay on his feet during the challenger’s followup assault that saw John take a few good left hooks.
John’s corner elected to retire their fighter between rounds, ending his 15 year, 48 fight unbeaten streak.
Vetyeka wins the WBA “super” title, adding it to a collection that also includes the IBO belt, improving to 26-2 (16).