Moruti Mthalane can justifiably lay claim to being South Africa's greatest flyweight of all time after he defended his IBF flyweight crown on Monday. Photo: Ziphozonke Lushaba

CAPE TOWN – Moruti 'Baby Face' Mthalane can justifiably lay claim to being South Africa's greatest flyweight of all time after he defended his IBF flyweight crown with a 9th round stoppage over Japan's Akira Yaegashi in Yokahama, Japan, on Monday.

The fight was evenly poised at the time referee Mario Gonzalez of Argentina stopped the fight and this was reflected on the judges' scorecards; 76-76 Jonathan Davis (Philippines), 77-76 Kazutoshi Yoshida (Japan) and 78-74 Deon Duarte (South Africa).

The 36-year-old Yaegashi, a three-time world champion who previously held the WBA strawweight‚ WBC flyweight and IBF junior flyweight titles, did enough to shade his opponent in the first half of this bout between two thirty-somethings who showed no signs of sell-by dates. Yaegashi was particularly impressive in rounds 4-6.

However, Mthalane, 35, imposed himself spectacularly on the bout from the 7th round onwards. In Round 8 Mthalane's varied his attack between head and body and this seemed sap Yaegashi's strength. The relentless attack forced Yaegashi to settle for a defensive role, more so, after particularly punishing body shot.

Mthalane's superb condition, a hallmark of trainer Colin Nathan's stable, allowed him to pile on the pressure at the start of Round 9. Towards the end of this round, Mthalane unleashed a barrage of punches which reduced Yaegashi to a punching bag. The referee Mario Gonzalez stopped the fight 2 minutes 54 seconds later.

This was Mthalane's fourth consecutive bout on the road after previously racking up wins in Japan, China and Malaysia where he won the vacant title for the second time in July 2018.

Coming into the fight, Mthalane was world-rated No 2 by the authoritative Ring Magazine, which fight fans refer to as the 'Bible of Boxing'. After this showing, it could well be a matter of time before Mthalane claims the coveted No 1 slot.

African News Agency (ANA)