Thomas Oosthuizen: Climbing his way up the 168-pound ladder
Score one for persistence.
Denied in a first crack at the IBO super middleweight world title in 2010 when his fight with Isaac Chilemba ended in a draw, South Africa’s Thomas Oosthuizen simply got right back to work.
He was rewarded in only four months when, with the IBO championship vacated by Chilemba’s move to 175 pounds, he TKO’d Evert Bravo to gain entrance to the unoccupied throne and realize a dream that officially began when he turned pro at age 19.
Now, just more than a year – and four successful IBO world title defenses – later, the 6-foot-4 Oosthuizen has begun drawing attention from the division’s potential big-time opponents… and the writers who often help transform talented prospects into household names.
Nicknamed “Tommy Gun” for a fan-friendly style that’s yielded 13 stoppages in 19 victories, Oosthuizen was mentioned prominently by ESPN boxing columnist Dan Rafael in an April 27 piece, just hours before outpointing once-beaten Marcus Johnson in Miami, Okla.
“One of the more intriguing fighters in the super middleweight division is Thomas Oosthuizen,” Rafael wrote. “He's a tall southpaw with good power.”
It was the second U.S. appearance in seven months for the now 24-year-old, who’ll make another on Aug. 2 in New York, where he’s scheduled to defend the IBO belt against Rowland Bryant at the Roseland Ballroom in Manhattan.
IBOBoxing.com recently caught up with Oosthuizen to discuss his rise to prominence, his plans for the future and his relationship with the IBO.
IBOBoxing.com: It's an old boxing saying that fighters get better once they win championships. Do you feel you've improved since you won the IBO belt?
Oosthuizen: Yes, I do feel that I have improved since I won the IBO belt. After winning the belt it put more pressure on me from the outside and that made me want to perform and improve more from the inside. Opposition becomes harder and that makes me push even harder.
IBOBoxing.com: You were a pretty young fighter, but already had one IBO title chance against Isaac Chilemba before you finally captured the championship. Describe what the feeling was like the first time you held the IBO belt and knew it was yours?
Oosthuizen: It is like capturing something that people can only dream of getting and having it in your hands. So to put it in words… you will have to search in another dictionary because no words can describe the feeling.
IBOBoxing.com: Describe yourself as a fighter. When things are going well for you, what are your strengths? And how, ideally, would a fight unfold for you from start to finish?
Oosthuizen: I love training and preparing for a fight and finding ways to beat styles. Any circumstance in a fight is a puzzle and you just have to make all of the pieces of the puzzle come together, so it’s always going well.
IBOBoxing.com: Clearly, 168 pounds is one of the hottest divisions in the sport right now. What's it like to be a part of that, and is it frustrating at all that your name isn't always mentioned with the Carl Frochs or Andre Wards of the world?
Oosthuizen: I am only beginning to be a part of the top names in the world, so just hold that question and ask me again in a year’s time.
IBOBoxing.com: You have the IBO championship belt. Are you the best fighter in the world at 168 pounds? If so, why? If not, who is?
Oosthuizen: Yes, I am. Who has beaten me yet?
IBOBoxing.com: The IBO has had widely recognized and respected champions in some divisions – like Klitschko, Dawson and Pacquiao etc. – while in some other divisions the IBO champion is lesser-known. How do fighters perceive the IBO? Do they take it as seriously as the other organizations?
Oostuhuizen: IBO is growing. If you remember, Mayweather and Hatton fought for the IBO belt, so I do believe it is the champion who makes the belt and not the belt who makes the champion.
IBOBoxing.com: In many cases, a fighter will win an IBO belt and slowly become more recognized and mentioned when it comes to big fights. Do you feel that's happening for you? Are you getting opportunities now that you hadn't gotten before?
Oosthuizen: Yes, but also at the end of the day, you can get the opportunity but what you make of it is all on you.
IBOBoxing.com: At 6-foot-4 and only 24 years old, the physical assumption about you would be that your body could carry some more weight and that you might be a guy who could move up to light heavyweight or even beyond. Is that something you've considered?
Oosthuizen: Yes, that is how you become the pound-for-pound champion.
IBOBoxing.com: All your early fights were in South Africa, but I see that you've fought in the United States twice in the last two years and you have another fight scheduled soon. How important is it to you to fight in the U.S.? Does it help with recognition?
Oosthuizen: Yes, of course! Americans understand the true art of boxing and that is what boxing is for me, an art. Not anybody can be a painter. You have to be colourful and unique to paint a Mona Lisa. Ask Picasso.
IBOBoxing.com: If you could determine your own path, where would you be in your career in five years?
Oosthuizen: Not if, I will! To dominate the division that I am in.