Johnny Muller fires a jab at Kevin Lerena during 2016's WBA Pan Africa/SA Cruiserweight Championship match. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG – If Thabiso Mchunu believes he’s fighting the same old Johnny Muller at Emperors Palace on June 10, he’s got another thing coming. By Muller’s own reckoning, he’s hitting harder than ever and moving better than before.

What’s more, hours of sparring with big-punching Junior Makabu have given him the confidence he needs to prevail over a man who recently challenged for the WBO belt. Mchunu’s southpaw style doesn’t worry Muller.

“I’m with the best in Harold Volbrecht, plus Junior is southpaw, so I’m learning everything,” he said from his home in Roodepoort on Joburg’s West Rand.

Muller has been matched extremely tough in the past two years – Oleksandr Usyk, Mateusz Masternak and Micki Nielsen come readily to mind – but these are the kind of fights he says he wants.

“I don’t want easy fights. I need these sorts of fights to test me so that if I land a big one, I’ll be ready,” said the rugged fighter who turns 27 in August.

Muller (20-7-2) accepts that to beat Mchunu (17-3) he will have to hurt him, something he believes he can do.

“I must be fast, get on top of him and not give him a chance. I have to work him, work him. He can be awkward for me, but that’s no problem. I’ve fought all types," he added. "The difference now is in my power, which he’ll feel.”

Muller will have advantages in height and reach, but he’ll have to cope with Mchunu’s speed and skill. It’s an intriguing fight, not least because of the clash of styles, but the reality that the loser will have a hard road to travel to get back in the reckoning.

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