Trainer Colin Nathan insists that his man Moruti Mthalane is in prime condition ahead of Friday’s IBF flyweight title defence against Britain’s Sunny Edwards.
“We wrapped up our training camp in Tunisia before coming to the UK,” the 43-year-old South African told Boxing Social on Thursday night. “South Africa is a red zone country and we went to Tunisia because we had to do 10 days in a green zone country prior to coming to the UK.
“Training was amazing. We had a great camp with great sparring. We took a sparring partner with us who simulated Sunny’s style very, very well. He was switch-hitting from orthodox to southpaw.”
Nathan, who heads up MTK Africa as well as managing and training an array of fighters through his Hot Box Gym in Johannesburg, admitted that he rates the 25-year-old Edwards highly. Nevertheless, he believes Mthalane’s pedigree and experience will prove decisive.
“Sunny is a really good fighter,” Nathan said. “You’ve got to give respect to him. He wants to take a step up and fight the best in the world, but I think this step up is too much for him. There’s levels to boxing and we believe Moruti is on another level. We made weight really comfortably, Moruti is just such a pro.”
At 38, Durban-raised Mthalane is now in his second reign as IBF 112lbs champion and is unbeaten since 2008, when he was stopped on a cut against Nonito Donaire in Las Vegas – his only reverse in 10 world title contests.
“He’s a freak of fucking nature, man,” Nathan reflected of Mthalane, who has shown no signs of deterioration despite his relatively advanced years. “I think he should be given more credit than he has been. And I think you are going to see another great performance from him on Friday.
“I’ll be honest with you – I’ve never worked with a fighter who trains as well as he does. It’s insane. It’s remarkable that at 38 he’s still arguably the best flyweight on the planet.”
Nathan believes that fighting in the UK is a great opportunity for Mthalane to garner new fans, and further raise his already lofty reputation within pugilistic circles.
“We rocked it in Japan [defeating Masayuki Kuroda and Akira Yaegashi in 2019 title defences] and we’re going to rock it at the York Hall on Friday night. We’ve been looked after really well over here – a big thank you to the promoter and to my guys at MTK – and now we’re just looking forward to defending the belt on Friday night.
“Nothing has come easily to Moruti in his career. But he’s overcome every obstacle and setback and if you look at his resume, the fact he’s been unbeaten for so long and the fact he’s never shied away from any competition, that is evidence enough of why he is where he is and why he is rated as he is.”
South Africa has a proud tradition in boxing, particularly in the flyweight division. Peter ‘Terror’ Mathebula was the first South African to win world honours at the weight, dethroning South Korea’s WBA title holder Tae-Shik Kim in a significant upset at the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles in December 1980, while the iconic Jacob ‘Baby Jake’ Matlala held the WBO flyweight title from 1993-95.
There was also the great Sowetan Jake Tuli, who did not win world honours, but did lift the British Empire title in 1952 courtesy of a sensational win against Britain’s Teddy Gardner.
However Nathan argues that – from a historical perspective – Mthalane’s achievements mean he might well be the greatest South African boxer of them all. “I don’t think South African boxers are given enough credit, even at home. But Mthalane is the reigning National Sportsman of the Year in South Africa and is finally getting the credit he deserves.
“This guy is an all-time great, not just among South Africans, but an all-time great African fighter. You think about Baby Jake, Jake Tuli and Mathebula and so on and he’s levels above these guys, I’m not disrespecting these guys, but it is what it is.”
Main image: Queensberry Promotions.