Moruti Mthalane wins convincing decision over Masayuki Kuroda, retains IBF flyweight title
Korakuen Hall and its intimate capacity of 1,800 boxing die-hards was the site of the IBF flyweight title bout between defending champion Moruti Mthalane and challenger Masayuki Kuroda.
Mthalane, undefeated for the last 11 years, had a little trouble turning back his mandatory challenger to improve to 38-2 (25 knockouts) but delivered a devastating performance in the final three rounds to overcome a brave challenger who applied pressure and committed himself to a fierce body attack.
Kuroda (30-8-3, 16 knockouts) told The Ring last week that he was confident of sitting in his lucky corner and having home advantage as he prepared for what was almost certainly his last world title opportunity. None of that mattered once he entered the ring against Mthalane, a 36-year-old freak of nature who is still taking names in the flyweight division.
The action began with Mthalane walking down Kuroda who was content to look for counter opportunities. On his back foot, the challenger was able to avoid some swings but Mthalane continued to press the action and landed some solid combinations.
A hard right hook upstairs landed for the champ to begin the second but was traded for a counter body shot from the challenger. It was evident this encounter was going to see its share of action early and the fighter who maintained their strategy long enough to avoid getting sucked into a brawl would prevail.
The crowd came alive in the third with Kuroda landing heavy shots. Wide sweeping hooks were unloaded by the underdog who had nothing to lose and a full house of loyal supporters who couldn’t have cared less that Mthalane was unbeaten for over a decade.
Kuroda kept at the body in the fourth with Mthalane taking cover and absorbing a lot of punishment. The champ finally came alive at the end of the round and even caught Kuroda with a shot after the bell, much to the crowd’s chagrin.
Mthalane found his rhythm in the fifth as he blistered Kuroda’s right eye which immediately began to swell. It was a lively round where experience took over and the inactivity of Kuroda also began to show. The jab and combination work from the South African champ was simply more effective than the reaching punches coming back at him. A beautiful one-two upstairs from Mthalane was met with a hearty counter attack in the final 30 seconds.
After being surprised by the challenger’s efforts for several rounds, Mthalane found some resolve and went back to his strategy, effectively handling Kuroda with jabs and uppercuts in the eighth. The ninth was more of the same.
Mthalane continued to land with precision in the championship rounds and absorbed very little in return. The final session saw blood dripping from both eyes of Kuroda and it was very surprising that the challenger had managed to stay on his feet.
When the final bell sounded the scores were very fair: 117-111, 116-112 and 116-112.
“I’m very much happy because I won the fight,” said Mthalane. “How I won it, it doesn’t matter because I won unanimously. [Kuroda] surprised me because he is very strong compared to how I was watching him on the videos.”
From here Mthalane is looking for Charlie Edwards, the WBC titleholder, for a unification should he get on a proper schedule that will allow the two to meet.
Mthalane finished by telling The Ring he had a message for Edwards. “Come on champ, let’s unify our titles. I’m ready. I’ll knock you out.”
Contact Nick Skok on Twitter at @NoSparring