Winning the world title the second time is sweeter‚ says Moruti Mthalane

Moruti Mthalane hoisted high as he wins by TKO against Genesis Libranza during the Boxing from Wembley Arena on April 28, 2017 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Moruti Mthalane hoisted high as he wins by TKO against Genesis Libranza during the Boxing from Wembley Arena on April 28, 2017 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Image: Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images

Moruti Mthalane says winning the IBF flyweight crown on Sunday for the second time in his long career was sweeter than his first coronation in 2009.

The 35-year-old survived a knockdown in the 11th round to win a unanimous decision over Pakistan’s Muhammad Waseem on the undercard of Manny Pacquiao’s triumphant return in Kuala Lumpur‚ Malaysia.

Two judges gave it to the South African with margins of 114-113 and the third a convincing 116-110; Mthalane’s record improved to 36 wins and two losses while Waseem suffered the first loss of his career‚ dropping to 8-1.

“[Winning it again] now feels better‚” said Mthalane‚ who was stripped of the belt in 2013 after he refused to defend it in Germany for what would have been a paltry purse.

Since then he spent the better part of five years on the sidelines battling to get action.

“I didn’t know if I was going to get it back.

“It shows that in everything in life you have to be patient.”

Mthalane hit the deck for the second time in his career in the penultimate round‚ but he insisted he wasn’t hurt.

“I don’t know how he caught me‚ maybe I’ll see it properly when I watch the fight. But I was not finished‚ my legs were still okay and I came back strongly in the 12th round.

“What’s important is that I got off the canvas to win the fight.”

Mthalane rated 30-year-old Waseem‚ who had a long amateur career amassing medals at various tournaments including Commonwealth and Asian Games‚ as one of his toughest opponents he had faced.

“I fought a great opponent. It was a tough fight‚ it was not easy at all. I knew it was going to be a war. That boy‚ when I hit him he hit me back.”

The last time Mthalane faced such a hard opponent was the last time he defended the same belt in Panama in September 2012‚ when he was dropped by Ricardo Nunez in the third round before getting up to stop the challenger in the eighth round.

“That was also a tough fight‚” recalled Mthalane‚ who plans to celebrate on his return with wife Thando and eight-year-old son Lwazi “to give back the time I took from them when I was preparing for this fight”.

He also wants to visit his mother Rita in Pietermaritzburg.

“I want to go to KZN to see my mum because she was always supporting me.”

Mthalane‚ who grew up in Lindelani with his parents and six siblings‚ took up boxing as a kid with encouragement from father Michael‚ a taxi owner. Older brother Innocent went on to become the SA junior-featherweight champion.

“I fell in love with boxing. It made me disciplined because I went to school‚ the gym and then home. I didn’t get a chance to be naughty.”

After his dad died when he was 15‚ times got tough‚ and his mom‚ a dressmaker‚ became the breadwinner.

“My mother did everything in her power to put food on the table.”

Trainer/manager Colin Nathan‚ who guided Hekkie Budler to the WBA‚ IBF and Ring magazine junior-flyweight title in May‚ was confident Mthalane would not have the same problems he did the last time he was world champion.

“Definitely not‚” he said‚ adding there was a possibility of Mthalane fighting in a unification bout if Paddy Barnes can beat WBC titleholder Cristofer Rosales next month.

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