This coming weekend we get back to back nights with world title bouts in the Flyweight division. On Friday we'll see WBO champion Junto Nakatani defending his title against Angel Acosta and a night later it'll IBF champion Sunny Edwards (16-0, 4) defending against Filipino challenger Jayson Mama (16-0, 9), in what could be a huge weekend for the 112lb division. Of the two bouts the the Nakatani Vs Acosta is likely to be more explosive, however Edwards Vs Mama is likely to be a very, very interesting technical bout. Maybe not the most fun to watch as a casual, but a very interesting one all the same.
Of the two men involved in that IBF title bout it's the outspoken Edwards who is the more well known. He's a fighter who has enjoyed using social media, often to troll those that dislike him, but he's also backed up his words in the ring. The unbeaten 25 year old, who's brother Charlie Edwards is a former WBC champion, made his debut in 2016 and and gradually moved through the ranks by beating domestic and European competition. Earlier this year he proved how good he was with a fantastic performance to dethrone Moruti Mthlane with a clear decision win over the South African great. That win saw him net the IBF which he will be defending here.
In the ring Edwards is a pure boxer. He loves to use the whole ring, skirting around it when he needs to. He has fast feet, fast hands and uses his speed well. He sadly lacks power, and unlike most Flyweight he doesn't look for a fight, instead he looks to box, draw mistakes and make opponents pay for them. A genuine technician. Sadly for him his lack of power, and to some extend lack of out put, will likely be an issue against the top fighters in the division, such as Junto Nakatani, Julio Cesar Martinez and Ricardo Rafael Sandoval, but against the rest he likely has the boxing tools to take decisions over almost anyone else. Of course if a fighter can cut the ring off and make it into a fight then they have a real chance to get to him, break him down, take his legs away and take victory. But that's not an easy task, and Mthalane never came close to managing it in their bout.
Interestingly Mama was actually supposed to face Mthalane last year in South Africa, in a bout that was scrapped at the 11th hour after the authorities refused to let the bout take place on the grounds of the event not being covid safe. It was a huge hit for Mama's career, given he had travelled to South Africa at the time, and then he ended up seeing Edwards getting the chance he was supposed to have. With that in mind we are expecting the Filipino to be really up for this opportunity, which is a step up in class for him anyway.
The 24 year old "Smasher" made his debut in 2016 and like many Filipino's began his career against novices and very limited opponents, such as Bimbo Nacionales and Rodel Tejares. In 2019 he stepped up big time, and beat Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr and Kwanthai Sithmorseng, but like many fighters his momentum was stopped dead in 2020, not just due to the issues with the Mthalane fight but a general lack of activity. He managed to fight in February 2020 and wasn't in the ring again until April 2021, losing all his momentum.
In the ring Mama is a confident boxer, who comes forward, feels comfortable in his power, speed and skills, but looks very much a fighter who's not got that special something needed to win a world title. He's competent, he's skilled, he's relaxed in the ring, with decent speed, but there's nothing that really stands out about him. Sadly he lacks fight changing power, his footwork is very much deliberate and he relies a lot on upper body movement to avoid shots. Sadly for him, in regards to this bout, is not just his slow footwork, which will see him following and chasing Edwards, but also his low out put which will potentially see him struggling to make the most of any opportunities he does create.
Whilst we're not sure how Edwards would fair against the best in the division, such as the other champions, we really don't see how he loses here. We see him out boxing, out moving, out speeding, and out slicking Mama. Mama will have the odd moment here and there, but he'll struggle to tie down Edwards and have any sort of sustained success. In the end we're expecting a very wide decision win for Edwards.
Prediction - UD12 Edwards
On December 20th we see a really interesting match up for the IBF Flyweight title, pitting a veteran champion against a little known challenger in a major step up. On paper the bout doesn't look the most appealing, especially to those who have followed the two men, however we suspect the reality is that this will be a lot more compelling that it looks. In fact we're genuinely expecting a very, very interesting match as the champion faces the double teaming of his opponent and father time.
The champion in question is 38 year old IBF Flyweight king Moruti Mthalane (39-2, 26), the ageless wonder of South Africa. Mthalane, enjoying his second reign as the champion, will be seeking his 4th successive defense since winning the title back in July 2018, when he narrowly escaped with a win over Muhammad Waseem. In the opposite corner to the veteran champion will be little known Filipino Jayson Mama (15-0, 8), a 23 year old who has quietly been building a reputation for himself at home, with out too much fuss and attention. Although relatively unknown Mama youth on his side as well as hunger, an unbeaten record and he's still very much a fighter who is improving with every bout.
Before we go into detail about the bout it's self it is worth noting that this will be the first time in 43 bouts that Mthalane will be fighting in his home of KwaZulu-Natal. Something that may well add something extra to the bout. It could be that the emotion of being at home will help Mthalane or could, potentially, be a hindrance with the added pressure of needing to perform at home after several years of fighting on the road.
The 38 year old South African is often a forgotten man in the sport, which is a real shame as he's had an excellent 20 year career in the sport. He made his debut in December 2000, aged 18, and won his first 14 bouts before losing in 10 rounds to Nkqubela Gwazela in a South African Flyweight title. He would would bounce back from that loss with 9 straight wins, including a notable one against Hussein Hussein, in an IBF world title eliminator. That win lead to a 2008 bout with Nonito Donaire that saw Mthlane give Donaire fits before being stopped in round 6 due to a cut. In the 12 years since that loss however Mthalane has gone unbeaten, winning 16 fights, and becoming a 2-time IBF Flyweight champion.
During his 16 fight winning run Mthalane has scored really impressive and notable wins. He stopped Julio Cesar Miranda for the IBF title around a year after his bout with Donaire then went on to record 4 defenses, stopping Zolani Tete, John Riel Casimero, Andrea Sarritzu and Ricardo Nunez before vacating the title. He vacated due to a paltry purse bid offer for a fight in Thailand with Amnat Ruenroeng, and then, sadly, sat out of the ring for the entire year. On his return to the ring he won the IBO title, and picked up a few low key wins before re-claiming the IBF title in 2018, with a win in Malaysia over Muhammad Waseem. Since reclaiming the title Mthalane has built a reputation as a Japan-killer, beating Masahiro Sakamoto at the end of 2018, Masayuki Kuroda in May 2019 and Akira Yaegashi in December 2019.
Notably Mthalane's not fought since December 2019, and we do wonder if ring rust will be an issue here along with his age, but it's hard to deny that his record is an impressive one and is getting better with time.
In the ring the South African is a brilliant technician. He can box, he can fight, he can apply intelligent pressure. The only thing lacking is true 1-punch KO power, but he's got solid pop in his hands, excellent speed, brilliant accuracy, fantastic stamina, brilliant experience, an unerring calmness, true self belief and a brilliant ability to take a shot when he needs to. At his best he's a boxer, though when he needs to become a fighter he can, as we saw last time out against Akira Yaegashi. There are areas to pick on, and we do wonder if he can keep high work rate for 12 rounds against an aggressive fighter, but he's shown a lot to like during his long, successful, and often over-looked career.
Aged 23 Jayson Mama is very much a fighter who is slowly making a name for himself with out too much fuss, and without too much attention. He's been a professional since 2016, when he was just 18, and had created a buzz for himself following a very strong 2015 in the amateurs, picking up a number gold medals in Filipino Youth tournaments including the Philippines National Games, the Manny Pacquiao Sports Challenger and the Palaron Pambansa.
Despite having a solid 2015 in the amateurs Mama's team were cautious early on and matched him to be busy, rather than tested in 2016, when he picked up 5 wins, including one over Roland Jay Biendima which has aged excellently. In 2017 he was less active, picking up 3 wins, though did face more notable domestic names, such as Bimbo Nacionales and Rodel Tejares. He was just as busy in 2018, though managed to again move forward and achieve more, winning the WBO Oriental Youth Flyweight title, making his international debut in Macao and going 10 rounds for the first time.
Mama really moved his career forward in 2019 winning the IBF Silk Road Flyweight tournament, beating Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr in the final, before stopping former world champion Kwanthai Sithmorseng and then beating Dexter Alimento. Sadly he has only fought once this year, and that was very much a tick over fight in February against domestic foe Reymark Taday,
In the ring Mama looks razor sharp with his jab, he looks calm and relaxed, judges distance well and likes to work with some space. On the inside he looks less effective, and looks like he can be bullied and out muscled up close, but at range he looks very solid and well schooled with a lot of ring craft. Despite being well schooled the feeling with watching Mama is that he really lacks power and physicality. His shots don't have much sting on them and he will struggle to get the respect of opponents, something we've seen him failed to do against his best opponents so far. He's a very good boxer, but we're not sure if he has toughness, the power or the strength to make a mark at the top.
For Mama this bout is a big step up and if it was just purely boxing skills he would have a decent chance against Mthalane. Both are very talented boxers, and Mama would certainly be able to hold his own. Sadly however it's the things missing with Mama that give us concern here. His lack of fight changing power, his weak inside game, and inability to back up opponents will be a massive issue for him against Mthalane. Of course Mthalane is old, and has had a hard career, but we suspect he still has enough to deal with the Filipino challenger here.
We're expecting to see Mama have a good start, using his speed and jab well, taking the early initiative before being ground down by the consistent, clean work of Mthalane, who we suspect will force a late stoppage of the Filipino challenger.
This is probably too much too soon for Mama, though we fully understand his team taking their opportunity here and rolling the dice with their young hopeful.
Prediction - Mthalane TKO11
World Title Previews
The biggest fights get broken down as we try to predict who will come out on top in the up coming world title bouts.