Hard-hitting junior middleweight Roarke Knapp earned a hard-fought unanimous decision victory over Ahmed El Mousaoui Saturday night at Emperors Palace in Kempton Park, South Africa.

Scores were 99-91, 98-93, and 96-94 for Knapp, who improved to 16-1-1, 11 knockouts.

The shorter Knapp, who resides in nearby Edenvale, was the aggressor from the opening bell, mixing his attack to the head and body of El Mousaoui. Undaunted, El Mousaoui did well, countering with left hooks to the head of Knapp.

About a minute into the third round, a left hook to the head momentarily stunned El Mousaoui. Knapp followed up, connecting with several combinations on the inside. Towards the end of the round, a counter right hand snapped back the head of El Mousaoui, backing him up against the ropes. Knapp was unable to follow up as the bell sounded to end the round.

During the middle rounds, El Mousaoui was effective, outboxing Knapp on the inside. Knapp looked somewhat winded, fighting more in spurts than he did earlier in the fight as El Mousaoui found ways to counter Knapp.

As the fight progressed into the later rounds, Knapp found a second wind. He began walking El Mousaoui down, looking to land left hooks or right crosses behind a more-consistent jab. As he pinned El Mousaoui against the ropes, Knapp let his hands go, connecting to the head and body. 

El Mousaoui had his best moments to close round seven, connecting with lead right hands that snapped back the head of Knapp.

Both fighters had their moments during the final two rounds as they stood more in the pocket, trading combinations to the head. Knapp was the fighter who mixed his attack more to the head and body of El Mousaoui. 

Saturday marked a solid win for Knapp, who faced a fighter with more versatility and had faced the better opposition between the two. Knapp had not fought since December 10, defeating former world title challenger Dante Jardon of Mexico City by unanimous decision. The 24-year-old has now won his last seven fights since suffering his only loss as a pro to Brandon Thysse in November 2019. 

El Mousaoui, who resides in Aulnay-sous-bois, France, falls to 34-5-1, 8 KOs. He had not fought since losing to countryman David Papot by split-decision. 

In the co-feature, junior middleweight Shervantaigh Koopman of Pretoria improved to 11-0, 8 KOs, breaking down Jackson Kaptein and dropping him twice in the eighth round to win by knockout.

The 28-year-old Koopman has won four of his last six bouts by knockouts.

Kaptein (6-2-1, 4 KOs) has now split his last four fights.

In junior bantamweight action, Ricardo Malajika of nearby Johannesburg stopped Adrian Lerasan of the Philippines in the fifth round. Malajika, an amateur standout, improves to 11-2, 9 KOs and has now won his last three bouts.

Lerasan falls to 12-5, 5 KOs. He has won his previous five bouts. 

The card was promoted by Rodney Berman and aired live on SuperSport throughout South Africa. 

Francisco A. Salazar has written for BoxingScene since September 2012 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (California) Star newspaper. He can be reached by email at santio89@yahoo.com or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing