Moruti Mthalane To Defend Flyweight Title May 13 In Japan

By Jake Donovan

Moruti Mthalane’s “Babyface” ring moniker isn’t quite as good a fit at age 36 as when he was an 18-year pro debutant literally half a lifetime ago.

Considering his recent schedule, “Road Warrior” might have to do.

The diminutive flyweight is set for a third consecutive title fight away from home. The latest adventure comes in a May 13 title defense versus Masayuki Kuroda in his challenger’s native Japan.

Mthalane (38-2, 25KOs) will make the second defense of the title he claimed in a 12-round win over Pakistan’s then-unbeaten contender Muhammad Waseem last July in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The win was followed by a trip to Macao, where he defended his strap in a 10th round knockout of Japan’s Masahiro Sakamoto last New Year’s Eve.

Now comes a third straight fight in Asia for the two-time titlist from South Africa, who’s basking in the glow of his late career surge.

“Moruti is very excited to be fighting in Japan,” Mike Altamura, Mthalane’s adviser told “He made quite an impression in his last fight, stopping Sakamuto in the fashion he did in Macao. It’s built Moruti’s reputation in Japan as well, which is important since the lighter weight classes are so strong in the Orient.”

Kuroda (30-7-3, 15KOs) rides a six-fight win streak heading into his second career title fight. His first bid resulted in a points loss to Juan Carlos Reveco in Feb. ’13, also in Japan.

Mthalane has won 14 straight since his last career defeat, a 6th round stoppage at the hands of a young flyweight titlist in Nonito Donaire more than 10 years ago.

To offer a glimpse of how underappreciated his career has been, three of his next four wins came against opponents—Julio Cesar Miranda, Zolani Tete and John Riel Casimero—whom would later go on to win a major title. Mthalane’s win over Miranda earned his first tour as a flyweight titlist, registering four defenses before being stripped of the crown in 2013.

Politics and other issues slowed his career to a crawl, at one-point fighting just six times in a span of nearly six years. The forthcoming title defense in May will mark Mthalane’s third fight inside of 10 months and sixth in just over two years since joining forces with trainer Colin Nathan, whom he credits for reviving his career. 

“Moruti’s legacy is incredible when you take a step back and look at it,” notes Altamura. “He’s unbeaten for 10 years, and over that stretch has stopped two future world champions in Casimero and Tete. He’s just caught a couple of tough breaks, but true fight fans now have the opportunity to appreciate his dexterity and skill inside the ropes.”

That said, the team feels there’s still plenty of work to be done—even at age 36 and if it means continuing to hitting the road for bigger and better fights.

“On our side, Moruti is still fighting and building his legacy and notoriety as a fighter,” believes Altamura. “As a team we are pleased he is travelling to Japan with the intention of delivering a statement-making performance, which we believe will pave the way for a unification contest in the second half of the year.”

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