ON Saturday night in Rotherham, South African southpaw Klaas Mboyane shocked Sheffield’s Ross Burkinshaw, who was forced to retire at the conclusion of the fourth-round with an inured left elbow. Having his very first fight in England, 33-year-old Mboyane improved to 17-10-2(9) in winning the biggest fight of his career. Burkinshaw, five years the younger man, is now 14-6-2(8).

Mboyane and Burkinshaw put on a great little action fight that may well have gone on to become something of a classic had the favourite not been pulled out. Going toe-to-toe with the smaller man from Limpopo in South Africa, the big-for-the-weight Burkinshaw gave the visitor every chance. Commentator Jamie Moore – doing a superb job for Spike TV – wondered aloud why Burkinshaw was not using his height and reach advantages.

The two traded from the first bell, with Burkinshaw edging the opening couple of sessions before “Iron Man,” as Mboyane is known, turned the fight in his favour with some wicked body punching in the third and fourth-rounds. Now looking tired and hurt, Burkinshaw was having to dig deep to stay in there. It was non-stop action. And then came the surprising finish.

Burkinshaw said post-fight how he had injured his left elbow during sparring, and that he had hurt the elbow again during the short and fierce battle. Burkinshaw, who had been on a great run of form recently – picking up the Commonwealth bantamweight title last year and the WBO European belt in his last fight, back in February – had hoped a win over Mboyane would lead him to a WBO world title shot. Now, after this heartbreaking setback, “The Boss” spoke about the possibility of retiring.

This, his promoter Dennis Hobson said, was a spur of the moment remark. But it could be a long road back for Burkinshaw, a man who has given us some excellent fights during his career. Perhaps Hobson will be able to make a return match of the fight that was really beginning to catch fire last night at The Magna Centre.