By Ronnie Nathanielsz
IBF flyweight champion Moruti “Baby Face” Mthalane (26-2, 17 KO’s has acknowledged that Filipino challenger Johnreil Casimero (14-1, 8 KO’s) “is a very good fighter” but the champion’s promoter Branco Milenkovic said Mthalane “believes he will stop him in the later rounds.”
The well-known, multi-award winning promoter told the Inquirer that Mthalane has been training since December as he was originally scheduled to defend his title in February. Milenkovic said he decided to postpone the scheduled fight and instead put on a big show on March 26 featuring two IBF world title fights with Canada’s two-time champion Steve Molitor clashing with mandatory challenger Takalani Ndlovu in a junior featherweight title bout as the main event.
Milenkovic said Mthalane has been sparring with his former opponent and IBF challenger Zolani Tete and former Olympian Jackson Chauke and “some very fast guys as Casimero is very mobile and has speed.”
The Times of Johannesburg reported that the 21 year old Filipino challenger insisted he didn’t jump at the chance for a world title fight but said he was ready and confident of dethroning Mthalane. The champion, on the other hand said he wanted to control the pace and tempo of the fight and it was up to the challenger to adapt to the conditions.
Mthalane’s trainer Nick Durandt expressed confidence the title will remain in South Africa telling the media “He (Casimero) doesn’t have what it takes to beat my little Zulu (Mthalane) over here.”
Mthalane won the title by beating Julio Cesar “Pingo” Miranda, the current WBO champion in a twelve round unanimous decision on November 20, 2009 and defended the title successfully with a 5th round TKO over countryman Zolani Tete on January 9, 2010.
The little South African is remembered for giving newly crowned WBC/WBO bantamweight champion Nonito “The Filipino Flash” Donaire some problems before the referee called a halt in the 6th round after Mthalane was badly cut and bleeding in their IBF/IBO title fight on November 1, 2008. Milenkovic claimed that Mthalane was “very unfortunate against Donaire to lose on cuts in round six after doing very well in rounds 4, 5 and 6.” The multi-titled promoter said “we all know how good Nonito is and this should give the boxing world an idea of how good Moruti is.”
Casimero arrived in South Africa on Monday, Manila time with promoter Sammy Gello-ani and were greeted by the comforting news that only the referee Wally Snowball and one judge Simon Jazi Xamlashe will be from South Africa. The two other judges will be Valerie Dorsett of the United States and Alan Davis of Canada.
Gello-ani informed the Inquirer that after checking in at the Holiday Inn following their 7:00 a.m. arrival on Monday, Casimero “rested rival until late in the afternoon and then proceeded to the gym to work out. His weight after the light workout was almost 5 pounds over the flyweight limit which is manageable to attain before the weigh-in.”
Gello-ani said that the former WBO Interim junior flyweight champion started light training in January and “went into high gear last February until March with trainer Christopher Tepora supervising his training and sparring schedule.
He said Casimero “is in top shape and he is hoping he can handle Mthalane’s game plan. Casimero’s desire to become a world champion is still there.”