By Bill Tibbs
IBF flyweight champion Moruti Mthalane (37-2, 25 KO’s) rang in the New Year with an exciting and impressive win in Macau, China over challenger Masahiro Sakamoto (13-2, 9 KO’s) in the first defense of his world title.
Mthalane stalked, and wore down, the rugged challenger before the referee stopped the contest on the advice of the doctor at the end of the 10th round. With his right eye closed, it was clear that Sakamoto had taken enough punishment.
Mthalane had all his skills on display on this night working behind a very strong jab and showing not only exceptional in-fighting skills but the ability to adapt from boxer to puncher throughout the fight.
It was an impressive win for the underrated and talented champion and could lead to some exciting unification fights in the New Year. With flyweight champions like Japan’s WBO champion Kosei Tanaka, the Ukraine’s WBA boss Artem Dalakien or England’s WBC champion Charlie Edwards waiting in the wings there might be some fun stuff for fight fans in the 112-pound division.
Maxboxing caught up with Mthalane advisor Mike Altamura, who works closely with the champion along with the Las Vegas based Sean Gibbons, to get his thoughts on the win. It was clear that Altamura was thrilled with the victory and sees some great opportunities for South Africa’s Mthalane in the coming year.
“Let me tell you Billy, it was a great win and he looked very good but I wasn’t surprised because this is a very, very good fighter and he has an outstanding trainer (and manager) in Colin Nathan who always has him in tremendous shape”, said Altamura.
Mthalane turned pro in the December of 2000 at age 18 and is still going strong, at age 36, (in fact looking better than ever) at the close of 2018.
“The key for him is his lifestyle, he is very disciplined”, said Altamura, when asked about his late career success. “The age 36 might be old for some smaller fighters but this is a very disciplined man, he is always in tremendous shape and he is also very humble”.
When asked about what he sees in the coming year, it was evident that Altamura sees 2019 as a year that more and more fight fans will be talking about Mthalane.
“He is quite underrated and under appreciated”, said Altamura. “He flies under the radar but I think that will change in 2019. He is deserving of a serious payday and he really has earned some global TV exposure”, he said. “This guy has been a pro for 18 years and is undefeated in that last decade. He has fought and stopped several future world champions in that run and he is an exciting, aggressive counter puncher. The man is really a true artist inside those ropes”.