Moruti Mthalane gloves up for his sixth title defence
Stripped of flyweight title once before, he gets a second chance
Moruti Mthalane can underline his stature as SA's best pound-for-pound fighter in Tokyo tomorrow, but he has more important reasons to put up a good performance.
Mthalane, 36, makes the second defence of his IBF flyweight crown against Japan flyweight champion Masayuki Kuroda.
On paper "Babyface" Mthalane should win this scrap against a tough 32-year-old who lost by decision in his last world title challenge, for the WBA belt in 2013 when the SA boxer was nearing the end of his first reign as IBF champion.
Mthalane, unbeaten since 2008, was the IBF flyweight champion from 2009 to 2013, when he was stripped for inactivity, having refused to accept the only offer to fight - for peanuts - from an overseas promoter.
He had six fights in four years to get back into contention for his old title, and this time he wants to cash in.
MTK Global, an international boxing management company, this week announced it had signed Moruti, and that's because they see value in him down the line.
If he wins tomorrow the next likely step is a unification bout.His manager, Colin Nathan, who also heads MTK's African arm, was already mentioning options before they jetted out on Sunday last week."There's talk of Charlie Edwards, the WBC champion. And then there's also talk of potentially [Kosei] Tanaka, the WBO titleholder."But first things first, we need to get through Kuroda."With countryman and former victim Zolani Tete missing out on his recent unification shot because of injury, Mthalane has the chance to entrench himself atop the mythical pound-for-pound list in SA right now.But that's not really important; success and earning power should be his focus.Despite all the downs in his career, Mthalane has kept on training hard.But he still feels nerves. "I get nervous when I'm in the changing room. Even when they call me in the ring I'm nervous. They sing the national anthem, I'm nervous. Once they say 'box', the nerves are gone."But he felt his greatest tension when he fought Muhammad Waseem for the vacant belt last year. "I was under pressure. It was my last chance to win the world title ..."It's completely different when you're old and you're young. When [you're old and] you lose the fight people say 'no, he's finished, he's done'."Mthalane is still far from done.