Thomas Oosthuizen has underachieved and lacked discipline thus far as a pro. Saturday's result may be a step in the right direction if he can stay committed to the sport.
Oosthuizen was able to grind out a 12 round majority decision over Thabiso Mchunu Saturday night at Emperors Palace in Kempton Park, South Africa.
Saturday night marked the first time Oosthuizen fought since May 19 of last year, when he lost by unanimous decision to light heavyweight contender Igor Mikhalkin. Since then, Oosthuizen has reportedly dealt with personal issues that led to a stint in prison.
Now fighting as a cruiserweight, Oosthuizen challenged Mchunu for a regional title belt in an all-South Africa clash. Mchunu entered the bout having split his previous six bouts, including a loss to Oleksandr Usyk in December of 2016.
Both southpaw fighters did little during the opening couple of rounds, likely due to their counter-punching styles. As the bout progressed, Oosthuizen found a rhythm of working behind a jab, followed by left hands to the head.
During the middle rounds, Mchunu repeatedly connected with counter left hands to the head of Oosthuizen. Sensing he was down in the fight, Mchunu became the aggressor, but the taller Oosthuizen did match Mchunu, punch for punch.
One judge scored the bout 114-114, while the other two judges scored the bout 115-113 for Oosthuizen, who improves to 28-1-2, 16 knockouts.
"Thabiso is a competitive guy, but I prepared well," said Oosthuizen, who is trained by former world titleholder Harold Volbrecht. "I made a decision to change my life. I went back to boxing. I'm keeping myself clean. I'm living a clean lifestyle. I can do a lot better."
After the fight, Oosthuizen called out fellow countryman and cruiserweight contender Kevin Lerena.
"It's no secret I want to fight Kevin Lerena," said Oosthuizen.
Mchunu drops to 19-5, 12 KOs.
In the evening's chief support, fringe super middleweight contender Ryno Liebenberg stopped Alfonso Tissen (11-3-2, 5 KOs) in the fifth round.
Liebenberg (19-6, 13 KOs) was too strong and more experienced for Tissen. Liebenberg battered Tissen until referee Thabo Spampool stepped in and stopped the bout at 1:48 of round five.
Also on the show, lightweight Michael Mokoena (13-2, 8 KOs) knocked out Lusanda Komanisi (21-5, 18 KOs) at 48 seconds of the fourth round.
Francisco A. Salazar has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco covers boxing for FightNights.com, Ventura County (Calif.) Star newspaper, RingTV, Boxingscene.com, and Knockout Nation. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing