It’s a big leap up into world title class for Sunny Edwards this Friday night, as he challenges long serving IBF Flyweight champion, Moruti Mthalane, at York Hall, Bethnal Green.
South Africa’s Mthalane will be making the fourth defence of a belt he claimed for a second time in July 2018, and he hasn’t tasted defeat in well over a dozen years now.
Mthalane (39-2, KO26) has been a lower weights star for some time now, and it will be a big ask of Edwards to take his crown in the East End of London.
KwaZulu-Natal-based Mthalane’s last defeat came in his first world title challenge, stopped in six rounds by Nonito Donaire in November 2008 in a bid for the title he currently holds.
The South African claimed the vacant title a year later, outpointing Julio Cesar Miranda in Johannesburg, and then defended against, now household names, Zolani Tete and John Riel Casimero, both halted in five rounds apiece.
A further two defences followed before ‘Babyface’ vacated, and instead took the vacant IBO strap in March 2014, with a split decision win against Jether Oliva.
Then he contested his old IBF crown that was then vacant in 2018, having to get off the deck to win on the cards against Pakistan’s Muhammad Waseem.
Mthalane has made a hat trick of defences since, his last two coming on away turf in Japan, outscoring Masayuke Kuroda in May 2019, before stopping Akira Yaegashi in December of the same year.
Moruti travels to the UK for the first time, facing a young, hungry fighter in the form of Edwards (15-0, KO4).
The 25-year-old Croydon native gets a real acid test here, but he has been picking up several ranking building titles in a 15 fight professional career.
A solid amateur, ‘Showtime’ turned over in September 2016, and has hovered between Flyweight and Super Flyweight throughout his professional career.
Sunny has claimed WBO European and WBO and IBF International belts at Super Flyweight, and IBF International and WBO Intercontinental straps at Flyweight. Edwards also became British champion at Super Flyweight in December 2019, having to get off the canvas to take a points win against Marcel Braithwaite.
Last out in August 2020, Edwards performed well to diffuse the dangerous Thomas Essomba, taking a clear decision in defence of his IBF International belt at 115lbs.
Prediction: This is a tough match to call, and hinges on how much the South African veteran has left, as well as just how good Sunny Edwards truly is, as he won’t have faced anyone close to Mthalane before.
If Moruti still has the know-how and ring craft that he has shown in multiple world title matches, I favour him to fiddle and frustrate his way to a close win on the scorecards to defend his title.
A decent undercard is headlined by Michael Conlan (14-0, KO8), and the Irishman takes on a ten round assignment at Super Bantamweight against upset specialist, Ionut Baluta (14-2, KO3).
29-year-old Conlan will be looking to kick on in 2021, but Baluta has spoiled many a party in recent times.
The Madrid-based Romanian came to prominence at the back end of 2019, taking a deserved split decision win against Kyle Williams in Wolverhampton.
Backing that up was a surprise points victory over eight rounds against former world champion, TJ Doheny in Dubai, and last time out, he stunned David Oliver Joyce, wiping the Mulligar man out in three to win the WBO European Super Bantamweight title.
Conlan needs to impress, and is coming off a revenge win against Olympic nemesis, Vladimir Nikitin in December 2019, and, in his last outing, he stopped former world title challenger, Sofiane Takoucht in the tenth and final round. He should have too much here for Baluta, but may need the cards for a clear points win.
Fight of the night could well come in the form of the British title eliminator at Super Welterweight.
Darlington’s Troy Williamson (15-0-1, KO11) has been patiently waiting for an opportunity to come his way, and it now does in the form of unbeaten Scot, Kieran Smith 16-0, KO7).
Williamson has had bad luck with late notice opponent changes and cancellations, and he comes into this one on the back of a tight points win over Harry Scarff in a fight that could well have gone the other way in August 2020.
Smith hasn’t fought since November 2019, defending his WBC International Silver title over ten against Vincenzo Bevilacqua in Glasgow.
Troy has slightly more seasoning, and he can take a win over the ten round distance in this one, although Smith should pose a few problems along the way.
Ryan Garner (9-0, KO6) makes his first appearance of 2021, and the Southampton Super Featherweight takes on former Midlands Area champion, Paul Holt (7-10, KO2), in a scheduled six rounder.
Garner should be able to remove Holt from battle before halfway.
Cousins, Joshua Frankham (2-0, KO2) and Levi Frankham are also on the bill. Joshua will more than likely need all four rounds at Super Welterweight, against the never before stopped Naheem Ali (2-66-1, KO1). Levi meets Paul Cummings (2-47, KO0), also at Super Welterweight, and he should come through on points.
Also at 154lbs, Congo born Jonathan Kumuteo faces the tough Dale Arrowsmith (2-39-1, KO1), and he too is likely to need the referee’s scorecard to secure victory.