6. Tim Austin KO 8 Mbulelo Botile — July 19, 1997, Arena, Nashville, Tennessee
Injuries: Broken jaw, cuts inside mouth
For the South African titlist, his fourth appearance on U.S. soil represented the sixth defense of his IBF belt as well as a difficult bout against the body’s mandatory challenger. For Austin, the 1992 Olympic bronze medalist at flyweight, it was a opportunity to play catch-up with teammates Oscar de la Hoya, Raul Marquez and Montell Griffin, all of whom had won belts by this time. It also was a formidable assignment, for some believed Botile was the best 118-pounder on the planet and the 16-0 (14) Austin – coming off a 17-month layoff sparked by injuries and managerial issues – had fought past four rounds only twice.
The challenges continued to mount for Austin once the action begun. At the end of an otherwise even first round Botile connected with a strong hook that broke Austin’s jaw and by the time he answered the bell for round two blood already was seeping from his mouth. Austin coped with his crisis by jabbing frequently, moving just enough to keep Botile at arm’s length and wisely picking his spots for occasional flurries. Meanwhile Botile escalated his attack and landed a heavy right to the tip of Austin’s injured jaw. By round’s end blood was spurting from Austin’s mouth while Botile sported a mouse under the right eye.
Austin’s speed and sharp lefts down the middle dictated the action in rounds three and four while Botile’s accuracy and power gave him rounds five and six. Still, Austin’s defensive skills were such that Botile seldom hit him flush, a fact that surely helped him survive, and sometimes thrive, round after round.
A cuffing right hook to the neck produced a dubious knockdown for Austin in the seventh and an angered Botile revved up his attack for the remainder of the round. The shots to the jaw had taken their effect as Austin’s mouth was twisted awkwardly and he had some issues keeping the mouthpiece in place.
There was no doubt about the power of Austin’s blows in round eight, however, for a counter left cross buckled Botile’s legs and a hair-trigger right hook to the jaw caused Botile to turn away, walk toward the ropes, turn his back and take a knee. Referee Mark Nelson immediately kneeled beside him and stopped the fight, sparking a wild celebration at ring center.
“I got hit by a (punch) and I felt my jaw lock,” Austin told Showtime’s Jim Gray. “I know that he hit me with a good punch and I had to withstand that punch to continue the fight.” When asked if he thought his jaw was broken or if he lost a tooth, Austin replied, “I think I lost something. I feel it but I’m the world champion. I feel good.”
A later examination confirmed the broken jaw, which forced Austin to undergo surgery and take an eight-month hiatus from the ring.