‘Baby Face’ Mthalane hits Tokyo running

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Moruti Mthalane, the IBF flyweight champion, strikes a suitable pose before the Success Steps in downtown Tokyo. The stairs are said to bring good luck to those who choose to climb them.

Not even a 26-hour trip from Johannesburg to Tokyo could dampen IBF flyweight champion Moruti Mthalane’s enthusiasm as he arrived in Japan on Monday for the second defence of his world title against Masayuki Kuroda, the number four contender.

After several hours sleep, he put in six miles of roadwork at dawn and later sought out the Aoki gym for a strenuous workout that included six rounds on the pads, four on the heavy bag, plus two rounds of shadow-boxing and 20 minutes skipping that all demonstrated his sharpness as he seeks a 15th successive win, having enjoyed an 11-year unbeaten run.

“I feel very good, despite all the travel,” said the man they call “Baby Face”.

“I’ve had a great camp with good sparring, so it’s just a matter of staying loose and sharp. I’m very happy to be in Japan, even if the weather is a little chilly.”

Trainer Colin Nathan says the challenge is to ensure that Mthalane doesn’t over-train. The boxer is inclined to work more than he must, so Nathan’s emphasis is on maintaining his fitness and ensuring he peaks on Monday night.

Mthalane’s camp will host an open media day on Thursday and the champion and challenger will come face-to-face for the first time at the pre-fight medical on Saturday.

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