By Mesuli Zifo
SOUTH African promoter Branco Milenkovic has thrown down the gauntlet to other world flyweight champions who are prepared to face his IBF flyweight king Moruti Mthalane to come to the party.
Milenkovic made the call shortly after Mthalane spectacularly stopped Italian and European champion Andre Sarritzu in seven rounds in his backyard in Cagliari at the weekend.
Fighting for the first time in Europe and only the second time outside his country after his controversial loss to bantamweight king Nonito Donaire for the flyweight belt he currently holds, Mthalane dominated Sarritzu, forcing his corner to thrown in the towel in the seventh round.
The victory netted Mthalane his 28th win against two losses which were both suffered under controversial circumstances.
His first loss to Nkqubela Gwazela in 2004 when he built what appeared like an unassailable lead in all judges’scorecards going to the 11th round before Gwazela produced a salvo that wobbled Mthalane around the ring, forcing the referee to stop the fight even though Mthalane was still on his feet, should have been expunged from the record books as Gwazela later tested positive to banned substance after the fight.
Even though Gwazela was stripped of the South African and WBC International flyweight titles that were at stake and was slapped with a two year ban, the loss on Mthalan’s record was never changed due to discrepancy with South African boxing rules.
Boxing SA, the structure that regulates boxing in the country, recently said Mthalane’s camp never challenged the decision to reverse the fight outcome and therefore that “L” in his ledger is still looming large.
He worked his way up again capturing the SA title via an easy sixth rounds blowout of then champion Akhona Aliva, a victory which Mthalane’s boisterous trainer Nick Durandt had likened to the taking the candy from a kid.
Mthalane’s stock continued to rise after beating Australian Hussein Hussein famous for his two wars with Mexican Jorge Arce, for the IBF title eliminator for the right to challenge Nonito Donaire who had caused a stir with his stunning fifth round stoppage of a swashbuckling Vic Darchinyan.
With Joe Cortez of the “fair but firm” fame handling the bout at Las Vegas on November 1 2008, Mthalane struggled to adjust to the “Filipino Flash” style in the early rounds but came back strong as the fight progressed.
Then Mthalane suffered a deep cut above his eyes and even before Cortez could see the damage himself, Donaire jumped in an implored the referee to assess the cut.
With Mthalane’s corner boasting an expert cutman in Durandt, Cortez inexplicably stopped the fight without giving Mthalane’s handlers and extra round to try to stop the cut, just when Mthalane was beginning for warm up to the action.
Milenkovic petitioned the IBF for a rematch and his request was granted but Donaire refused to come to the party, opting to relinquish the IBF flyweight and moved up to the junior bantamweight class.
Mthalane would fight for the vacant crown beating tough-as-teak Mexican Julio Cesar Miranda who later went on to claim the WBO flyweight title which he has since surrendered to Brian Viloria.
Now with the flyweight division teaming with talent including Ring and WBC long champion Pongsaklek Wonjongkam from Thailand, fire spitting Mexican Hernan “Tyson” Marquez who blasted Luis Concepcion in one round in their WBA rematch last weekend, Viloria who has date with Giovani Segura. Mthalane is trying to squeeze himself into the mix.
And Milenkovic says he has no qualms to unleash his dynamite in the opponents’backyard.
“We sent him to Italy and he delivered and we are prepared to send him anywhere including sending him to Marquez in Mexico,” he says.
Just to prove his confidence on his fighter, Milenkovic will be sending Mthalane, now 29, to Philippines to face that country’s unbeaten fighter Milan Melindo in a voluntary defence sometime in December.
“It is pity that weight does not make it possible for him to face Donaire again but I would love that fight to take place. But for now we will go after all these other world flyweight champions with Marquez the target because I have good working relations with his people.”