Sunny Edwards lifted the IBF flyweight title from Moruti Mthalane tonight at York Hall, taking the win by unanimous decision and becoming a first-time world champion.
Edwards (16-0, 4 KO) won on scores of 115-113, 118-111, and 120-108. Giving him every round is pretty indifferent judging, particularly down the stretch when Edwards had stopped doing much at all other than protecting the lead — which was smart of him, mind you, it was clear he’d done enough by then. Bad Left Hook had the fight 116-112 for Edwards, with Mthalane (39-3, 26 KO) winning the last four rounds.
Mthalane, 38, had a bit of a nightmare matchup with the 25-year-old Edwards, who moved constantly, switched stances a lot and effectively, and peppered Mthalane with shots at the right range through the first eight rounds consistently. A couple of them were sort of close, but it was hard to find rounds for the defending titlist.
Mthalane did keep the pressure on, but Edwards moved so well, and as he said post-fight, he is simply very hard to beat, even if he’s not a big puncher and not the most thrilling fighter all the time.
“Me and Moruti were friends before, hopefully he’s still my friend. I knew it would be hard. He was very good at closing the gap down,” Edwards said. “If I’m honest, I had it about 7-5, 8-4. The 120-108 didn’t give him a chance, I wasn’t a fan of that score card. But I felt like I deserved to win.
“It might not be pretty all the time, it might not be exciting all the time, but I’m very, very hard to beat. I hit him hard enough to keep him off me, but my God did he make me work there. My legs after that sixth round were tired like they’ve never been before.”
Edwards has a claim now to being the top flyweight in the world. There’s WBC titlist Julio Cesar Martinez with the other really strong claim, but Edwards just beat a guy who hadn’t lost since 2008 and has consistently been among the top flyweights in the world for well over a decade. It is an excellent win for the young fighter and puts him right up near the top at 112.
Michael Conlan MD-12 Ionut Baluta
Another iffy outing for Conlan if you’re doing more than hyping or promoting him, as he sneaks by Baluta with a majority decision on scores of 114-114, 115-114, and 117-112. I actually don’t think any of those are really bad scores; I had it 114-114, too, but if some of my swing rounds went the other way, Conlan could have shaded enough to win this on a score that seems comfortable but wasn’t.
Conlan (15-0, 8 KO) has been handled the way he has for a reason, though, and that’s becoming very clear. He’s 29 years old, he’s not some 21-year-old prospect. He is the fighter he’s going to be. He’s a technically skilled boxer, generally smart in the ring, seems to have the toughness, and worse fighters have won world titles. But it’s pretty clear there should be concerns about how he’ll handle true top-level competition at 122 or 126. He doesn’t seem to have anything outstandingly special in his arsenal; he’s not a big puncher, not abnormally fast-handed, doesn’t have the greatest footwork, good but not outstanding defensively, gets caught with shots. He is good. It remains to be seen how good, and the jury should really be out, being fair.
Conlan was a bit miffed by the scoring.
“Baluta’s tougher than I thought, and he’s shown it his last two fights, as well. Game as they come,” he said. “But he was missing tons of punches so I wasn’t really worried. When (one judge) called it a draw, I was worried. But I don’t think it was — and the second judge had it 115-114 or something, I don’t know how it was that close. But it was a good fight and good preparation for what’s to come.”
Conlan continued, “He held his engine more than I thought he would. He’s tough, he worked. It was my first 12-rounder and my first fight at super bantamweight, so the perfect test for where I’m at.”
“Baluta is messy and reckless and just keeps punching, and takes a good shot. It’s always going to feel uncomfortable while you’re doing your work,” trainer Adam Booth added. “I think it was comfortably an 8-4 for Mick. The scoring concerns me. We can’t score missing punches. But in terms of Mick’s progression, I think it was great.”
I will add this from my end: There is certainly a chance Michael Conlan will be someone who boxes up to the level against better foes. But we’re at a point where it’s time to find out. Most likely he’ll stay around this level until he gets a world title on the line, and if it’s vacant, he might stay around this level with a world title on the line.
Troy Williamson TKO-6 Kieran Smith
Good fight here, a final eliminator for the British 154 lb title currently held by Ted Cheeseman, and it’s Williamson getting the win and the shot sometime in the near future.
This was evenly matched through the first five, I had it 48-47 for Smith (16-1, 7 KO), the longer, taller man who seemed to maybe have the better skills at times, but Williamson (16-0-1, 12 KO) was always right there, and the 29-year-old “Trojan” made his mark in the sixth round, landing a hard right hand that pretty much had Smith out on his feet against the ropes. A few more shots came in, Smith went down, and the fight was over.
“I trained hard for a good, hard 12 rounds, because I know what kind of guy Kieran is. He’s an exceptional talent, and I think that was a big statement made by me tonight,” Williamson said. “I want the British title next. I’m capable of beating any of the domestic fighters.”