Moruti Mthalane and his trainer Colin Nathan. Photo credit: Brian Wysoke
Just a few hours before the clock struck twelve on New Year’s Eve, Moruti Mthalane showed there is still lots of spring in his 36-year-old legs as he punished the much younger Masahiro Sakamoto over ten rounds.
Sakamoto had a visible size advantage but it was Mthalane whose punches were more accurate, landing with regularity on the right eye of the Japanese fighter. With his right eye shut closed, the referee stopped the fight between rounds, making Mthalane’s first defense of the IBF flyweight title a successful one.
“The last round in particular was just horrible to watch because Moruti was just chipping human flesh off of him,” said Colin Nathan, trainer/manager of Mthalane. It was a pleasing performance for Nathan, who was happy that his fighter’s stamina held up better than it had in his title-winning fight against Muhammad Waseem, which he believes Mthalane overtrained for.
“[Sakamoto] tried his best but unfortunately he could not succeed because I was ready for him,” added Mthalane (37-2, 25 knockouts) after landing back home in South Africa.
“But I would give the credit to him, he fought all out like the challenger wanting to win the title.”
After the optional first defense, Nathan says he expects a letter from the IBF “very soon” ordering them to face mandatory challenger Masayuki Kuroda (30-7-3, 16 KOs). Kuroda, 32, has won his last six fights, riding his reign as Japanese flyweight champ to a second world title opportunity following his first one, a unanimous decision loss to then-WBA flyweight titleholder Juan Carlos Reveco in 2013.
Mthalane admits that he doesn’t know the first thing about Kuroda, but expects that he’ll take a look at his videos once he returns to the gym in a week.
One fighter he knows plenty about is Charlie Edwards, the WBC flyweight titleholder who pulled the upset in the UK over Cristofer Rosales last month to win the belt. Mthalane says he’d love a chance to get in the ring with Edwards (14-1, 6 KOs) in 2019.
“Before I retire, it will be very much an honor to get a unification, especially the WBC. When I started boxing I wanted to be a WBC champion so Charlie Edwards has got that title that I’ve been wanting for so long,” said Mthalane.
“But at this point in time, I’m still looking to make my mandatory defense. But I’ll be very happy if me and Charlie Edwards can fight for a unification before the end of the year.”
Nathan likes the Edwards fight too, and will wait to see how things play out once the IBF orders the mandatory.
“I think the match-up could potentially be a classic,” said Nathan of Mthalane-Edwards.
“We have options, naturally. We also have a mandatory looming,” said Nathan, who manages Mthalane along with his “3 Musketeers” group that includes Sean Gibbons and Mike Altamura.
For now, Mthalane takes comfort in the knowledge that his last performance showed he’s a young 36, and not an old 36.
“It means that age is just a number,” said Mthalane, who is the no. 1 rated flyweight by The Ring.
“I still have the power like I’m still young.”
Ryan Songalia is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and can be reached at [email protected].
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