Last chance saloon for Mthalane to hit big time

Veteran Moruti Mthalane to take on Pakistani "Falcon" Muhammad Waseem.
Veteran Moruti Mthalane to take on Pakistani "Falcon" Muhammad Waseem.
Image: Graphic by Dylan Wearing

The last time Moruti Mthalane was about to fight for the International Boxing Federation (IBF) flyweight title, he was accused of chickening out from fighting a 12-fight novice.

This was when he refused to defend his crown against Thai fighter Amnat Ruenroeng, claiming a paltry purse.

Rather than travel halfway around the world, Mthalane opted to dump the title in the dustbin, a decision which was to come back and haunt him down the line.

While the International Boxing Organisation (IBO) gave him a chance to fight for its title, which he won when he beat Filipino Jether Oliva, Mthalane’s boxing took several steps backward.

This Sunday the script should be rewritten as Mthalane has been given a chance to fight for the very same IBF flyweight against eight-fight novice Muhammad Waseem, of Pakistan origin.

But this time Mthalane knows that at 35, age is not on his side to pick and choose.

And with revered trainer Colin Nathan behind him, the fight offers him one last chance at the big league.

“We worked very hard for Moruti to be where he is today after his career stagnated,” said Nathan before the pair jetted off to Kuala Lumpur where the fight will take place.

It will be one of the bouts serving as undercards on the return of Filipino legend Manny Pacquiao, who will be challenging for the WBA welterweight crown held by Argentinean Lucas Mathysse.

Nathan has done wonders to bring Mthalane back to fighting for a major world title.

“I am sure people, including yourself, are wondering how we achieved this.

“But this goes with knowing the game.”

While on paper Mthalane should easily ascend the throne, Waseem has had a stellar amateur career like Ruenroeng, who although he had a handful of fights was still considered a dangerous fighter.

Nathan acknowledges that Waseem should not be underestimated because of his novice fight record.

“This guy was a big amateur star and the fact that he is unbeaten in eight bouts underlines his potential,” he said.

Despite his advanced age, Mthalane still boast an impressive record, having lost just twice to former Mdantsane boxer Nkqubela Gwazela and Filipino Nonito Donaire in a rather debatable outcome.

The advantage for him is that he goes into the fight while his camp is enjoying a good run, with stablemate Hekkie Budler having just returned from Japan where he achieved a major feat to dethrone the favoured Ryoichi Taguchi to win the IBF, WBA and Ring junior-flyweight titles.