Unification fights. They’re what every fan of the sweet science wants to see. The best fighting the best until one champion remains. For IBF Flyweight world champion Moruti Mthalane (39-2 KO 26) this is his aim for when boxing is back.
“I would like the chance to fight in a unification before I retire from boxing. I don't know when I’m going to retire as I’m still in boxing but it is my dream before I retire to fight and hold two belts and unify.”
“All of the champions are good fighters - Martinez and Tanaka are very good but if I get a chance to fight them, I would take that chance with both hands.”
Moruti says he is hopeful of one more fight this year but admits he is stressed with the lack of news on Boxings return.
“No news at all as we’re still in quarantine, I’m just praying that by the end of the year boxing will be back. If I can get one fight in either November or December, then I’ll be happy, but we’ll see what happens. It’s what we do, it’s our career and our job and if we can't do it, it makes things stressful.
Whilst it is hard for lower weight classes to get the exposure they deserve in countries like America and Great Britain, Moruti says South Africa really gets behind their smaller warriors.
“I would say it’s hard to get that exposure to other countries but here in South Africa fans enjoy watching the lower weights whilst not caring much about the heavier weights.
It's a shame that the amount of exposure at smalled weights isn't spread worldwide."
Moruti last lost 12 years ago when he was controversially stopped on a cut against Nonito Donaire for the IBF Flyweight title, but he credits his family for rallying around him when times were tough.
Speaking on his loss to living legend Nonito Donaire, Mthalane felt like he was doing well and would have won the fight if the fight wasn’t halted.
“I didn’t learn that much in that fight. I do believe if I didn’t have the cut on my eye I would have beaten him because I was starting to hurt him and his hand was injured so I would say he got very lucky to win that fight."
“Round four I was doing very well until I got a cut and the referee decided to stop the fight, but these things happen in boxing I do understand that.”
“It was very frustrating when the fight was stopped. I was in tears afterwards as I felt that this was such a big chance to become world champion and I didn't take it.”
For Moruti, fighting away from home has become the norm over the last few years as he has not fought in his homeland of South Africa since 2017,
“I’d be very happy if I get the chance to fight at home in front of my home crowd and I think everyone would come in numbers for the fight but I don’t know if it will happen, we’ll have to see, but at the moment I’m just praying for this pandemic to be over and for boxing to come back.”
Mthalane’s last two contests have come out in Japan most recently against Akira Yaegashi and he admits to enjoying fighting there and wants to go back.
“Fighting in Japan for the first time, I was very nervous. I think I performed very well, and I'd love the chance to return there to defend my title again knowing that I have the respect of the Japanese people.
‘Babyface’ has ruled out any chance of him moving up in weight and trying to become a two-weight world champion.
“I’m a natural Flyweight and have been fighting at this weight since I turned pro. There are some top fighters in this division who I hope to be matched against in the next couple of years."
Even at 37 Moruti is still going strong and feeling good about boxing with no retirement on the horizon.
“Yes I’m 37 but I’m still performing well and feeling strong and you only have to look at someone like Manny Pacquaio who's gone into his late 30's and is now in his 40's. I’m still in boxing and I don’t know when I retire when the time comes I will but for now I’m feeling strong.”
South Africa has one of the strictest lockdowns in the world at the moment.
“The situation is not good at all and we have to be very careful. I’m in isolation with my family and we're we’re not allowed to do anything. We have to stay at home with our families to stop the spread of coronavirus, it’s not good at all in South Africa and all sports is cancelled for the foreseeable future. I’m running sometimes and really just trying to keep myself busy, there’s not much I can do just the best I can.”
“I’m running sometimes and really just trying to keep myself busy - there’s not much I can do just the best I can.”
Moruti first got into boxing for fun but soon became enthralled with the glory of the sport.
“When I started boxing I was doing it for fun and I wasn’t aiming to be a world champion. I come from a family of boxing, but unfortunately, they stopped early in their professional careers.
I only realized I had talent in boxing when I won some championships and that’s what I fell in love with boxing for to get the trophies and medals."
Finally, Mthalane was named South Africa’s Sportsman of the year in 2019 an award he tells me he was surprised but honoured to get.
“It means a lot to me and the history I leave, even when I’ve finished boxing, I will be proud of myself because I’ve achieved so much.
Mthalane has achieved so much already, as he advances in age, but he still has dreams that he wants to achieve and when boxing returns, he will aim for the moon and look to add to an already illustrious career.