The Flyweight division has given us some amazing bouts in recent years, such as 2018's war between Kosei Tanaka and Sho Kimura, and today we got another, as Japan's Masayuki Kuroda (30-8-3, 16) [黒田 雅之] battled tooth and nail with IBF Flyweight champion Moruti Mthalane (38-2, 25) in a sure fire FOTY contender, up there with another of the amazing bouts we've seen in 2019 so far.
The bout started with Kuroda looking to use his slight reach advantage but it wasn't long until Mthalane got up close and drew Kuroda into a fire fight, with both unload a high volume of shots on the inside. It was a great back and forth with both landing their share of solid clean shots. Of the two Mthalane seemed to be the smart man, landing cleaner and defending better, but Kuroda was landing more shots, going to the body excellently.
Through the first 4 rounds there was almost nothing to split the two men. It could have been 4-0 either way with no complaints. Sadly for Kuroda he began to show some signs of tiring in the middle rounds, Mthalane on the other hand remained consistent with his work, cutting the left eye of Kuroda in the process. Kuroda would battle hard, and have a huge burst at the end of the round trying to steal it but it was too little too late. The same again applied in round 6, with Mthalane out working Kuroda through much of the round, before the challenger rallied at the end, with a huge onslaught that was driven by both the crowd and Kuroda's will to win.
In round 7 Kuroda began to show real swelling around his face, and was slowing. He was now picking moments to fire off, rather than trying to to press. He still had his moments, but he was taking more than he was giving, and was struggling to fight hard for 3 minutes. That continued to be the case in round 8, a round that Kuroda managed to land a lot of body shots in, but at the expense of taking a lot of head shots, as he face continued swelling. That was followed by a massive round 9 from Mthalane, who seemed to sense that he could get a stoppage, something that seemed plausible given the state of Kuroda's right eye, which was completely swollen shut by the end of the round.
By now Kuroda was fighting on will power and determination alone. His face swollen, his gas tank emptying and the momentum clearly behind Mthalane. He refused to sit back though and and pressed Mthalane through the round, taking punishment for his desire to be a world champion, landing shots but taking better ones in return. It was a brave and hungry effort, but one that saw him taking so much in return. By now it was becoming clear he would need a KO, and he was aware of it.
In the 11th round Kuroda managed to get his second wind, at least early in the round, but Mthalane soaked it all up and had a huge 2 minutes of the round, pushing Kuroda's determination to near breaking point. Kuroda looked done, completely blind in his right from swelling and like the referee might step in to save him from further punishment. It was a huge Mthalane round, until the dying seconds when, for the first time, he seemed to really hurt Mthalane, forcing the champion into survival mode for the final few seconds of the round.
Given he had hurt his man late in round 11 it seemed clear that Kuroda was going to give all he could in round 12, and he started out hot. Mthalane saw it coming however and boxed, using his foot work, his movement, timing and ring ring craft to see out the pressure before landing some glorious combinations late. Kuroda's desperation left him open and Mthalane was making him pay lighting up his face as we went to the bell.
After 12 rounds it seemed we had a close but clear winner. The first half of the fight had been wonderfully contested, and Kuroda had played his part in the latter stages with his incredible toughness, but there was only one man who looked like getting the win. The judges knew it, the fighters knew it and the crowd knew it, with Mthalane getting the unanimous decision, 116-112, twice, and 117-111.
There was no denying Mthalane was the better fighter, the worthy winner and a true warrior. His future is likely going to be a unification bout, potentially with WBC champion Charlie Edwards or WBO champion Kosei Tanaka, if Tanaka's team can lure him to Japan. For Kuroda a long, long rest will be needed. His face really was a swollen, damaged mess. Hopefully this isn't the end for him, but if it is, we can safely safe that the Last Samurai really did go out on his sword in a true FOTY contender.
World Title Results
Whether you like them or not World Titles add prestige to any bout as a result we've included the results of world title bouts in this special section.