At 37, Moruti Mthalane just keeps going strong, retaining his IBF flyweight title today in Yokohama, Japan, with a ninth round stoppage of rugged veteran warrior Akira Yaegashi.
Yaegashi (28-7, 16 KO) is 36 himself, and a former three-division titleholder, and the home fighter leaves this one with nothing to be ashamed of once again. He gave Mthalane (39-2, 26 KO) a hell of a battle in what became an all-action fight after the first two rounds, with CompuBox recording 1,200 punches thrown between the two men in nine rounds, 669 from Mthalane and 531 from Yaegashi.
Yaegashi came out boxing a bit early on, but in the third things started to heat up, and in the fourth they really started letting it fly:
What a flurry in the 4th between Mthalane & Yaegashi!— Tim - Boxeo Boxen бокс 拳闘 Boksing มวย Boks 拳击 (@Hock1717) December 23, 2019
Mthalane — who has been a top 5-ish flyweight for 11 years at this point, quietly one of the best and most consistent fighters of this decade — dealt with a strong charge from Yaegashi in the fifth and sixth rounds, but started really taking over in the seventh, and he had Yaegashi hurt badly on a shot to the body in round eight.
The South African snapped Yaegashi’s head back in the ninth round, setting a final rush in motion that saw referee Mario Gonzalez step in to stop the bout at 2:54 of that round. Yaegashi arguably could have continued, especially with it that late in the round, but he’d taken a lot of punishment for three straight rounds, too, and it’s hard to argue with Gonzalez, who was right there up close, seeing the results of Mthalane’s attack.
The win is the second straight in Japan for Mthalane, who won a competitive and entertaining decision over Masayuki Kuroda on May 13 at the famed Korakuen Hall, and extends his overall win streak to 16 fights, dating back to 2009. The last time he lost was to Nonito Donaire, who was a wrecking ball at flyweight, in Nov. 2008.
Yaegashi, on the other hand, may be at a point where retirement is in his near future. He’s been stopped in both of his last two truly meaningful fights, and hasn’t scored a good win in quite a while, dating back to at least 2016. He’s still absolutely a warrior, but he’s surely achieved what he’s going to achieve in boxing, and the time may be right. If he does hang it up, this was a hell of a last stand.