By Anthony Cocks
IBF flyweight champion Moruti ‘Babyface’ Mthalane 37-2 (25) insists he won’t be daunted by fighting on the road when he faces Masayuki Kuroda 30-7-3 (16) in the challenger’s home country of Japan on Monday night.
Now in his second reign as IBF champion, Mthalane is yet to defend the crown at home after outpointing Muhammad Waseem for the vacant belt in Malaysia last July and knocking out Masahiro Sakamoto in 10 rounds in his first defence in Macau in January.
The Mthalane versus Kuroda bout will take place a the famed Korakuen Hall in Tokyo.
“I was excited to learn that [I was fighting in Japan],” Mthalane, who has also fought in the US, Italy and Panama, told The Ring. “It’s something I’ve wanted to do and now I’ll be able to fight in front of a great crowd and show them a good fight.
The Japanese fight crowd is notoriously conservative but Mthalane says whether they shout and scream or remain silent will be irrelevant to the way he performs.
“When I’m in the ring I’m completely focused so it doesn’t matter to me how the crowd reacts. I did notice that they’re very focused when they watch boxing,” said Mthalane, who weighed in at 111.7-pounds.
The 32-year-old Kuroda, 111.5-pounds, will enjoy a three-inch height and reach advantage over the South African champion, but Mthalane is confident he had the tools to take those advantages away.
“I have always fought taller guys since I was little. I’m used to it and ready for Kuroda, no matter his height,” said Mthalane, 36.
Coach Colin Nathan praised Mthalane’s preparation and said they were more than ready for anything Kuroda throws at them.
“Obviously we’re very focused to get in the ring and perform. We’ve done the hard work. We’ve had a really good camp with great sparring,” said Nathan.
“It’s time to represent South Africa and Africa boxing and to establish that Moruti is indeed one of the greatest fighters coming out of our country and our continent. We’re ready.”
The well-travelled Mthalane expressed a desire to compete in the UK, where he would like to fight WBC flyweight champion Charlie Edwards 15-1 (6).
“I heard him call me out after his last fight so I’ll return the call after mine,” he said. “First, I want to defend my title.”