Mthalane retains title
By Bill Tibbs
Monday night in Yokohama, Japan, 37-year-old South African boxing legend Moruti Mthalane improved to 39-2, (26 KO’s), when he retained his IBF flyweight belt by stopping three-division champ Akira Yaegashi (28-7, 16 KOs) of Japan in the 9th round.
Yaegashi was difficult in the early rounds using his speed and fast footwork to keep the South African champion at bay. However, the vastly talented Mthalane used patience and experience to press the challenger as he eventually started to land hard shots to the head and body that clearly were taking a toll on Yaegashi. Mthalane poured on the punishment through the middle rounds and the ref finally stepped into save the hurt Japanese challenger in the 9th.
Entering his 20th year as a professional, Mthalana has had an impressive career to say the least. Turning pro in 2000, Mthalane went a perfect 14-0 before suffering his first loss in a South African Flyweight title shot against Nkqubela Gwazela in 2004. He would then bank 9 more wins over the next 4 years before losing in his first world title shot to Philippine star Nonito Donaire in a bid for the IBF world flyweight title. But, 2 fights later he realized his dream when he beat Julio Caesar Miranda, in November of 2009, for the IBF flyweight title. And, since then it’s been nothing but W’s for the classy champion.
Mthalane defended his IBF title 4 times in his first run before adding the IBO flyweight title to his collection in 2014. He made 4 defenses of his IBO strap and then added the IBF title again in 2017, and Monday’s win marked the 4th defense of that title.
For those keeping score at home that is 14 world title fight wins over 3 world titles in almost 11 years as a champion. To say those stats are impressive would be a massive understatement to say the least.
Clearly, the long-reign at a light weight, and Mthalane’s ability to remain unbeaten over a decade, fighting against the best fighters at his weight in the world, speaks to the dedication and commitment of a true pro.
However, according to highly respected, Australian-based manager Mike Altamura, the class and professionalism you see from Mthalane in the ring is only surpassed by his character out of the ring.
“This man is such a pleasure to work with”, said Altamura from Japan. “He is such a good, under-rated fighter, he has a great jab, is an aggressive fighter on the inside and is always in great condition. This guy has been fighting at the same weight for 20 years; a total pro”, said Altamura.
When it was pointed out that it was indeed a nice gesture of Mthalane to wear a cowboy hat in the ring to honour one of Altamura’s other fighters Dwight “The Fighting Cowboy” Ritchie, who recently passed, Altamura was quick to say that the gesture was a good snapshot of Mthalane as a person.
“This gentleman epitomizes everything that is wonderful about our sport”, said Altamura, “he is class personified”.