I think he's past his time, says Johnny Muller of rival Thabiso Mchunu
Johnny Muller arrived at training this week wearing his trademark boyish grin and the usual high dose of determination he's carried since his amateur days.
You can't fault his heart, but trainer Harold Volbrecht can offer a list of technical errors he's had to work on over the years.
Muller will need to execute the fight plan if he wants to unlock the awkward crouching style of Thabiso Mchunu at Emperors Palace in the east of Johannesburg on Saturday night.
Southpaw Mchunu, who lifts his right elbow as part of his defensive wall, will look to offload his left against the normally aggressive Muller. Both fighters have lost two of their last three bouts, but their contrasting styles make this contest interesting.
Muller is unfazed by the prospect of facing Mchunu, pointing out they have sparred together before.
"I know he's an awkward guy. He's one of the top guys I've faced, but I think he's past his time. He's never had a gas tank," he said.
"He's not a guy who wants to get in there and work."
Muller, on the other hand, is.
As a schoolboy, he didn't like the casual attitude at his boxing gym, just around the corner from his home in Roodepoort on the West Rand.
So he joined the famous Booysens outfit in Johannesburg's south, admitting he drove himself there without a licence when his parents, both working, were unable to take him.
"I was naughty," the father of one said, flashing that smile again.
There were plenty of fights in the schoolyard, but something changed when Muller started boxing. "I was taught to hit back, but as soon as I started boxing, I learned respect.
"Then I would stop the fights. The teachers would call me [out of class] to stop fights," said Muller, a flanker at school who, because he was always fit, never shied away from anyone.
He won three national titles as an amateur, where his conditioning camouflaged his lack of finesse. "I just knew jab-jab-right, one-two. I was always fit so it was easy."
Muller joined Volbrecht's Hammer gym on the East Rand after four professional fights, which included two victories over Volbrecht fighters. "He was wild, just throwing punches," recalled Volbrecht. "He was like a fan you switch on."
Muller suffered cuts for a while which he later realised was the result of a snail gel face cream he was using which made the skin thinner.
He's stopped that, and he's learning to keep his guards up. "My body is strong, I want to protect my brain."
The bill, also featuring unbeaten welterweight Thulani "Tulz" Mbenge, who is looking to earn a world ranking, will be on SS4 from 8.30pm.
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