MASHANTUCKET, Conn. – Charles Oosthuizen was one of South Africa's top fighters during the late 1980s. He won his country's national title at junior middleweight and middleweight, but when he stepped up to fight Reggie Johnson -- who would go on to win world titles at middleweight and light heavyweight -- in 1988, he was stopped in the seventh round.
Oosthuizen (26-7-2, 17 KOs) eventually retired in 1991, never having achieved the goal of winning a world title. More than 20 years later, his son, Thomas Oosthuizen, has emerged as one of the top up-and-coming super middleweights with a chance to take his career further than his father did.
The younger Oosthuizen was just five or six when his dad introduced him to boxing.
"I was raised in the sport of boxing by my dad," Oosthuizen said. "Then I turned professional at 19."
Now 25, Oosthuizen (21-0-1, 13 KOs), a southpaw with a crowd-pleasing style, has a chance to take the next step toward a world title opportunity when he faces Brandon Gonzalez (17-0, 10 KOs), 29, of Sacramento, Calif., in a scheduled 10-rounder on Saturday night (HBO, 9:45 ET/PT) at the MGM Grand Theater at Foxwoods in Mashantucket, Conn.
The fight is the middle bout on the card headlined by middleweight titlist Gennady Golovkin (26-0, 23 KOs) defending against Matthew Macklin (29-4, 20 KOs), with junior middleweight Willie Nelson (20-1-1, 12 KOs) taking on Luciano Cuello (32-2, 16 KOs) in the opener.
Oosthuizen's father is very supportive of his son's career.
"My dad won't be at my fight, but I know he'll be glued to the screen at home. He knows what it's about and that I am ready," said Oosthuizen, who is nicknamed "Tommy Gunn."
The fight with Gonzalez is a chance for Oosthuizen to be seen by a wide audience and put himself into the conversation for significant fights in one of boxing's best weight classes, one that HBO happens to be heavily invested in -- which is why it is putting Oosthuizen-Gonzalez on.
The division boasts champion Andre Ward, titleholder Carl Froch and former titlist Mikkel Kessler, among others, not to mention that Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. is on the verge of moving up to join the party.
"Tommy is not only one of the best 168-pound fighters in the division but, in my eyes, one of the top prospects pound-for-pound in the entire world," said Lou DiBella, who co-promotes Oosthuizen with South Africa's Rodney Berman. "He is taking on another undefeated, highly regarded fighter in Gonzales, and the winner of the bout truly emerges as not only a force in the 168-pound division, but as a potential star."
Oosthuizen, who will be fighting in the United States for the fourth time, views himself as fitting in with the big names at 168 but knows he needs an impressive performance against Gonzalez to get there.
"That's the goal," he said. "I'm trying to fight the top guys in the world, to compete against them and, by the grace of God, to win those fights and keep moving forward. Super middleweight is the most exciting weight class in the world. Guys like Andre Ward, Kessler, Froch -- that's where I want to compete."
Oosthuizen has faced far better opposition than Gonzalez, who shares trainer Virgil Hunter with Ward and has sparred with him. Oosthuizen owns wins against Aaron Pryor Jr., Rowland Bryant, Marcus Johnson, Francisco Sierra and Fulgencio Zuniga while his draw was against contender Isaac Chilemba. Gonzalez's best win? Ossie Duran.
"We both have a lot of experience, but competition-wise, I have fought the tougher competition," Oosthuizen said. "I have to give him his first loss."
Oosthuizen doesn't come off as cocky, but he sure thinks highly of his style, comparing himself to a pair of all-time greats.
"My style is basically Tommy Hearns on the outside and Bob Foster on the inside," he said. "Hopefully, one day I'll reach greatness and be in the Hall of Fame like they are. It's a dream but right now I am working on that dream."