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17 NOVEMBER 2018

Where am I? Home Columns Paul Upham

Ndou stops Rabah in thriller to win IBF title eliminator


By Paul Upham in Homebush Bay: There was plenty of trash talk between Lovemore Ndou and Naoufel Ben Rabah in the lead-up to their fight and the thrilling contest they put on Sunday afternoon at the State Sports Centre in Sydney was worth every word and is an early ’fight of the year’ contender. Rabah started slick and fast, but Ndou wore him down and forced him to stop on his stool at the end of round 11.

35 year-old Ndou 45-8-1 (30) won the official IBF junior welterweight world title eliminator and will now get a shot at current IBF world champion Ricky Hatton.

"No disrespect to Ricky Hatton," Ndou told his fans after the win. "He is a great fighter, but I promise you right now, I’m going to show you the best of Lovemore Ndou and I’m going to win that fight and become world champion."

The first two rounds were predictable with Ndou in white trunks with red trim, trying to set the pace while Rabah in black trunks, was content to move on the outside and use his fast hand speed and punches from angles to win the rounds. Rabah would circle to the left make Ndou miss before countering cleanly. Rabah used his jab to score consistently and was smiling at his early work. Ndou was coming forward trying to trap Rabah on the ropes but was not as successful as he would have hoped.

Rabah was fighting with his hands down in round 2 such was his confidence, but fast hooks from Ndou saw him have the better exchanges in round 3 as he quickened the pace to close the gap between himself and Rabah. A big left hook and then a left hand, right hand combination from Ndou were the best punches from him so far and indicated to Rabah and the crowd that this would not be an easy walk in the park.

Ndou was pressuring in round 4, but Rabah’s own bodywork was significant until both men caught each other off balance in one exchange. Ndou’s hand speed was still sizzling in round 5, but he was not working sufficiently to win the round as Rabah was happy to just jab softly repeatedly.

Rabah was punching fast and swapping from orthodox to southpaw and vice versa in round 6. Ndou marched forward but was not punching in range. When he did cut off the ring, Ndou’s bodywork on the inside was slowing Rabah down. A left hook to the head landed and Rabah was wobbled and looked tired for the first time in the fight.

Round 7 was arguably the best of the fight. A left hook from Rabah early saw Ndou wobbled but he refused to go down. Rabah tried to jump on him but Ndou fought back with a right hand and left hook. Rabah landed another left hook, but then went down from a slip as both men stood toe to toe taking turns to land vicious punches. Rabah gave up his foot movement and swung flat-footed at Ndou, both men trying to land single knockout blows as the crowd’s cheers seemingly lifted the roof of the arena.

Round 8 saw more body work from Ndou and a nice uppercut from Rabah, but the "Black Panther" was coming forward and stalking his prey. A series of left hooks and uppercuts from Rabah all landed and Ndou was like a gymnasium punching bag seemingly unable to get away from them. Rabah was on fire and looked as good as ever, but no matter what he landed, Ndou continued to come forward and marched Rabah down. Referee Pete Podgorski gave Ndou a warning for a low blow right hand at the end of the round.

Uppercuts from Rabah in round 9 saw Ndou respond with vicious hooks that appeared to be draining the life from "Chocolata". Rabah looked tired as he threw a wild right uppercut and for the first time it appeared that he might be able to be stopped before the final bell.

Rabah was timing his uppercut in flurries and would then stand toe to toe in centre ring and backed Ndou into the corner. Both men were swinging as if it was the final seconds of the fight in what was a thrilling world-class contest.

It seemingly took an eternity for Rabah to leave his corner at the beginning of round 11 and in retrospect indicated that this was the beginning of the end. Ndou continued stalking Rabah who threw a series of right hands, but he seemingly had nothing left. Ndou landed a big left hook and a straight right hand and Rabah was instantly wobbly up against the ropes, like a cork on the ocean. There was then seconds of confusion as the referee stopped the action, the roars from the crowd having drowned out the bell to end the round. The referee then sent both boxers back to their corners, but Rabah was totally spent at this time and slumped down on his stool.

"Choc just had nothing left when he came back to the corner," explained trainer Craig Christian. "I stopped the fight. He couldn’t go on for another round. The punches that came after the bell took everything from him. I know for a fact that the punches that hurt him landed after the bell."

At the time of the stoppage after eleven rounds, all three judges had Ndou ahead 105-104, 105-104 and 106-104.

"We lost the fight fair and square, but I was disappointed with the refereeing and the judging," said Christian, who felt Rabah should have been ahead on the cards. "Ndou landed six or seven low blows and the referee should have taken points from him. He kept landed punches with two hands to the head and the referee saw them and did nothing. I complained about these things to the referee during the fight but he did nothing about them."

A few hours after the fight, Christian said that 29 year-old Rabah 24-3 (13) was likely to retire and move to Germany to live with his wife.

"He just doesn’t want to fight anymore," he said. "Choc said he would give it another try after the loss to Juan Urango last year and he would have gone on if he had of won and got a big fight with Ricky Hatton. But he just doesn’t want to fight anymore."

Ndou was very pleased with his performance and said he will be up running early on Monday morning.

"Not only did I win well," he said, "I beat a boxer who fought a great fight. I knew Rabah would be even better than he was against Juan Urango and he gave everything he had, but I knew that a Lovemore Ndou who had time to train and prepare would win the fight."

Other results on the card;

* Paul Briggs (Aust) W12 Rupert Van Aswegen (South Africa) at light heavyweight
119-110, 120-110 & 117-112

* Daniel Geale (Aust) W12 Lee Oti (New Zealand)
119-110, 118-110 & 118-109
OPBF interim junior middleweight title
IBF Pan Pacific junior middleweight title

* Sakio Bika (Aust) W12 Andre Thysse (South Africa)
120-108, 120-108 & 120-109
IBF Australasian super middleweight title

* Robert Medley (Aust) W12 Kaizer Mabuza (South Africa)
118-110, 117-112 & 119-109
IBF Australasian welterweight title

* Garth Wood (Aust) WDQ4 Paz Vejaz (New Zealand) at super middleweight

* Zak Awad (Aust) W4 Ramillo Caballes (Philippines) at super middleweight
40-37, 40-37 & 39-37

* Junmar Dulog (Philippines) TKO3 Charlie Vella (Aust) at super lightweight

Paul Upham
Contributing Editor

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