Where to now for Flo Simba?
The best-laid plans sometimes go horribly wrong. That was exactly the case at Emperors Palace on Saturday night when Francois Botha stopped Flo Simba in six rounds.
The fight was all about the up-and-coming Simba. Promoter Rodney Berman, trainer Harold Volbrecht and manager Brian Mitchell decided that it was time for Simba to step up in class.
Simba knocked over a series of carefully selected opponents before this fight. No one really tested him during that period until now when he took on the White Buffalo.
Hindsight is always an exact science but on the evidence of this fight Simba was over-matched. Perhaps Simba's management team over-estimated their fighter’s ability to deal with a former heavyweight champion who has been around the block a few times. Maybe they thought that Botha was past his prime and would not be able to handle the youthful Simba. Clearly few people expected Botha not to stick to the script, and be a stepping stone in Flo Simba's career.
Let's give credit to Botha and his team. The 42-year-old was in excellent condition for the fight. His preparation was spot on. More importantly he came with one mission and that was to win. His game plan for the fight was just about perfect.
Botha knew that Simba is obsessed by the overhand right or the straight right as his weapon of choice. He has won many fights with these two punches. Tactically he had to avoid Simba's power in this respect, particularly early on in the fight. He did so magnificently. Simba tagged him a couple of times but never shook the bigger heavyweight.
Simba has a habit of carrying his left hand low. He is prone to being hit by a right hand over his low left hand. Botha knew this as well. He landed some straight rights in the earlier rounds and finished Simba off with a well-executed left-right hand combination.
Botha was never intimidated at any time during the fight. He bustled Simba and wasn't scared to come forward, using his superior weight advantage. The thought was that Botha would tire after three rounds. This was anything but the case. He looked a bit weary in round four but after that he got stronger.
The White Buffalo won a lot of respect during this fight. He has hardly fought in South Africa but I would imagine after this performance there are a couple of fights left in him, hopefully in this country.
I am sure Volbrecht will be bitterly disappointed with the outcome of this fight. Volbrecht is a highly respected trainer and I would be surprised if he underestimated Botha.
Volbrecht himself was an excellent welterweight with a good record and he knows that nothing is ever a foregone conclusion in a fight at this level. I am sure he had a different strategy in mind for Simba. His idea would more than likely have been for Simba to use his speed in a boxing exhibition rather than a slug fest.
Simba lost his composure under pressure and fought Botha's fight. Hard as he tried, Volbrecht couldn't get him back to the game plan. Calmness under pressure is the key to success in any sport. Unfortunately, once Botha didn't go down early in the fight, Simba panicked and the rest is history.
Where to then for Flo Simba? There is no question that he is very talented. He also has a high work ethic and is an intelligent athlete.
Is he truly big enough for the heavyweight division? He is weighing around the 100kg mark at the moment, and some of the top heavyweights are a lot bigger. I always thought Simba had a good chin. I was ringside when Elvis Moyo unloaded a left hook during their fight that hit him on the button. It wobbled him but he took the punch well.
The problem is that Moyo is the same size as Simba. When someone like a Botha, some 20kg heavier, connects at full velocity there is a marked difference. Botha is not known as a one-punch knockout artist, but due to the weight difference Simba could not absorb the cumulative effect of his punches.
The big money lies in the heavyweight division. There will be a reluctance I suppose to get Simba back to the junior heavyweight or the cruiserweight division.
The career of Simba is far from over. What is clear is that his trainer and manager need to do some thinking on how to bring him back.
I am sure Volbrecht will want to do some work on his technique in an effort to improve his skill level. In the past the Simba camp was not interested in a South African title fight.
This, however, may now be the way back for him provided he is eligible to fight for the title. He was born in the DRC but hopefully has the right papers to allow him to fight for the SA title.
The South African heavyweight title will give him back some credibility and also give Volbrecht a chance to work on him against lesser opposition.
It will be good for the heavyweight division in South Africa as well. Volbrecht himself has a busy time ahead not only restoring Simba's career, but also the career of his other prodigy, Johnny Muller, who is in a bad way at present. Let's hope they find a way to get both Simba and Muller back on track. It will be a pity if they don’t fulfil their obvious potential.