Moruti Mthalane: ‘Come fight night, I will be a new flyweight champion’
It wasn’t until last week that things finally resolved themselves and the July 15 Lucas Matthysse-Manny Pacquiao fight, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, was rubber-stamped. The fight has huge ramifications for many other fighters who were due to appear on the undercard.
One of those fighters, former IBF flyweight titlist Moruti Mthalane, will get an opportunity to regain the title when he contests the now-vacant crown against Muhammad Waseem, from Pakistan, who is bidding to become his country’s first world champion.
Mthalane (35-2, 24 knockouts) has been a professional since late-2000, when Waseem was 13 years old. During his long career, the South African won the IBF belt at the second time of asking, after having the misfortune of meeting the fearsome Nonito Donaire, in 2008.
Mthalane won the title one year later, outpointing seasoned future WBO 112-pound titlist and Mexican Julio Cesar Miranda, and made four successful defenses, notably stopping his countryman, current WBO bantamweight kingpin Zolani Tete, in five rounds. He also stopped future two-division titlist John Riel Casimero in five rounds. However issues in South Africa meant “Babyface” took his title on the road, to Italy and Panama, before things came to a complete halt and Mthalane was stripped for inactivity.
After an 18-month hiatus, Mthalane returned and has ratched up six wins, though, again, he hasn’t been overly active during a four-year period.
Mthalane has relocated to work under the expert trainer Colin Nathan at the Hotbox Gym in Johannesburg, and knows, at his age, victory against the South Korean-based Waseem (8-0, 6 KOs) is imperative.
“At the age of 35, I still feel very fresh,” Mthalane told The Ring. “I still do everything that I was doing at my 20s. Age is just a number. I don’t even think that I’m 35. I’m still at it; if I feel fresh and strong why not (continue)?”
The heavy-handed Johannesburg resident has prepared for the quick-footed Waseem by sparring with The Ring/IBF/WBA 108-pound champion Hekkie Budler, The Ring No. 7-rated former strawweight title challenger Simphiwe Khonco, The Ring No. 10-ranked strawweight DeeJay Kriel, unbeaten junior featherweight prospect Ludumo Lamati and featherweight up-and-comer Lerato Dlamini.
Nathan has kept things on the down low, focusing on the fight rather than worry about it not happening.
The respected young trainer describes the preparation – despite the constant threat of the event being cancelled – as “a great camp.”
“Truth be told, I wasn’t worried,” said Nathan. “Things always have a way of working out. I didn’t even mention to Moruti and kept on working.
“Moruti is in ‘the zone,’ giving it his all and I have no doubt that he will be on top form and give a great performance, which will result in him coming full circle with the IBF and become world champion once again.”
Mthalane is excited to end his latest spell away from the ring, and is confident in putting his name in “Comeback of the Year” contention by regaining his old title.
“I think it’s going to be a good fight for boxing lovers,” the quiet Mthalane said. “I think we going to give a good show but what’s in my mind now is a new IBF world championship and that I will have it back, after the fight with Waseem.
“I’ve watched his fights. He’s a good boxer; he’s very fit and I also saw his weakness, which I’m working on to defeat him. I’m well prepared now. I’m in very good condition. Come the fight night, I will be a new champion.”
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