Moruti 'Baby Face' Mthalane is scheduled to defend his IBF flyweight belt against veteran former WBA strawweight‚ WBC flyweight and IBF junior flyweight champion Akira Yaegasahi of Japan in Yokohama on December 23. Photo: Ziphozonke Lushaba

JOHANNESBURG – Moruti 'Baby Face' Mthalane is scheduled to defend his IBF flyweight belt against veteran former WBA strawweight‚ WBC flyweight and IBF junior flyweight champion Akira Yaegasahi of Japan in Yokohama on December 23.

One of South Africa’s most successful fighters, Mthalane has a strong claim to being South Africa’s greatest flyweight of all time.

The 37-year-old Mthalane (38-2; 25) won his first IBF flyweight title in November 2007 against Julio Cesar Miranda.

He then made successful defences of the belt against current WBO bantamweight champion Zolani Tete (tko 5), John Riel Casimero (tko 5), Andrea Sarritzu (tko 7) and Ricardo Nunez (tko 5) before being stripped in 2013 due to inactivity, which was through no fault of his own.

In October 2017, he regained the vacant IBF belt when he stopped Adin Diale in the second round and he has now made successful defences of the title against Muhammad Waseem, Mashiro Sakamoto and Massuki Kuroda.

The only losses on his record came against Nkqubela Gwazela in September 2008 and, in November 2008, he lost on a controversial cut eye stoppage against Nonito Donaire.

The 36-year-old Yaegashi (28-6; 16), who is rated at No 14 by the IBF, has been fighting as a pro since 2005 and is one of the few three-weight world champions.

Moruti goes into this fight as the favourite as Yaegashi was stopped at 2 minutes 45 seconds of the first round by Milan Melindo in May 2017 in a challenge for the IBF light flyweight belt.

Also, the Japanese fighter’s last three fights have all been wins inside the distance against fighters with poor records. 

African News Agency (ANA)