On March 19th we'll see the second defense of the IBF Flyweight title by slippery unbeaten English fighter Sunny Edwards (17-0, 4) as he takes on Pakistani fighter Muhammad Waseem (12-1, 8) in Dubai, in a very interesting looking bout which could see Edwards stamp his claim as one of the best in the division, or could see Waseem put Pakistan on the boxing map and become the first world champion from the South Asian country, finally living up to the promise he showed at the start of his professional career. The bout is a must win for both men, and is one where the skills of the two men, should make for a genuinely excellent bout, though sadly it may well be coming whilst the two are at very different points of their careers.
The ?? year old Edwards is one of the most under-rated fighters in the sport today, and for much of the early portion of his career he was over-shadowed by brother Charlie Edwards, a former WBC Flyweight champion, who was regarded by many as the better fighter. Today however it appears that the more slippery Sunny is the better boxer of the two brothers. His career started slowly, tucked away on Fran Warren shows, mostly against domestic competition, but in 2021 he broke out in a huge way, as he comfortably out boxed wily old veteran Moruti Mthalane to claim the IBF title. That win was a huge one for the division, and although it was a stylitically easy one for the fleet footed Edwars, it was an impressive show case of his concentration, stamina, focus and speed, as he preverented Mthalane from closing the distance and neutralised the South African's pressure round after round. Since winning the title he has defended the belt once, beating Filipino Jayson Mama, with a wide decision back in December.
Edwards is a wonderfully skilled technical boxer, arguably one of the best in and around the lower weights. He's fleet footed, slippery as an eel and has impressive handspeed, timing, and understanding of range. Sadly for him he does lack power, stoppages are incredibly rare during his career, and whilst he lands plenty he can't regularly make opponents back away, despite consistently landing clean blow. Whilst he does land clean on a consistent basis, opponents don't. In fact opponents regularly fall short, or at best land on arms, and are often beaten mentally just as much as physically. Although he hasn't been tagged regularly through his career, there is some positives for his opponents, as we have seen him dropped before, and we've also seen him pick up injuries in fights, and in fact he struggled in one or two bouts at domestic level, something the other top Flyweights will see as a chink in his armour. Notable his lack of power will also see the other top Flyweight look to take extra risks, to drag him into a fire fight, something that the likes of Ricardo Sandoval, Seigo Yuri Akui and Julio Cesar Martinez would feel comfortable in doing.
Whilst the 26 year old champion is coming in to his prime the challenge is certainly not, in fact at 34 years old Waseem would become one of the oldest men to win a Flyweight title were he to pick up the upset win here. Sadly for him his career has been a hugely frustrating one since turning professional in 2015, in South Korea. It has been a career that has seen funds being promised but not deliver, and has seen stretches of inactivity, and really not gone the way he, and those that have worked with him, would have hoped. He began his career in a 10 round title bout, scored a very notable win just 13 months later, beating Giemel Magramo and then things really ground to a halt with 3 meaningless wins in Panama before he got a shot Moruti Mthalane for the IBF title in 2018. That bout showed what Waseem could do, as he lost a razor thin decision against the brilliant South African, but since then he has fought just 4 times, and struggled to get a major fight during that time, and has looked somewhat demotivated by the sport at times, notably against Ganigan Lopez.
At his best Waseem was a brilliant boxer-puncher, who took a wealth of amateur experience to the professional ranks, and looked like someone who was going to be a star for Pakistani boxing. His early work with Korean promoter Andy Kim seemed to have him on the fast track to the top, but a lack of financial backing slowed that rise, drastically. Now a days it does seem like some of his sharpness has faded with time and he's not as quick, explosive, or sharp as he once was. He's still very capable, but he doesn't look the same fighter that had excited us early in his career, and had come so close to stopping Mthalane in 2018. In fact he now looks some what over-patient, in recent bouts, and whilst technically excellent, there is a lack of fire in some of his performance and we're only seeing glimpses of how good he was, just a few short years ago.
We'll be honest, we would love Waseem to win, putting Pakistan on the boxing map, giving the country it's first world champion, and helping potentially ignite a love of boxing in a country that is cricket mad. A prime Waseem could well have managed that, with his pressure, physicality, and power. With a 34 year old Waseem however the difference between the two men will be foot speed, with Edwards being too light on his feet, too quick with his hands and too slippery. Waseem will commit to coming forward, applying pressure, but much like Edwards' win over Mthalane, we see father time playing a notable role in this bout, and the stylistic strength of Edwards being too much for Waseem to over-come.
Prediction - UD12 Edwards
The Flyweight division has long been one of the best divisions in the sport, combining both great fighters and amazing bouts. In recent years however it's wobbled a bit as the top guys have gone up in weight and left the 112lb weight class feeling a little bit like a void as fighters begin to step up to bigger challenges. This has seen the likes of Roman Gonzalez, Juan Francisco Estrada, Donnie Nietes all abandon the division for success at Super Flyweight. As a result the division currently lacks in terms of x-factor, with good but not amazing champions, like Sho Kimura and Artem Dalakian. We're currently missing a real star in the division, and whilst Cristofer Rosales looks to be the best of the bunch he doesn't have the same allure as a Gonzalez, Estrada or even the now retired Kazuto Ioka.
This coming Sunday we get the chance to see another two fighters throw their hats into the ring to try and become the division's star and the new IBF Flyweight champion. The bout in question will see former champion Moruti Mthalane (35-2, 24) attempt to reclaim the title as he faces off with Korean based Pakistani fighter Muhammad Waseem (8-0, 6).
Of the two men it's Mthalane who is more well known. He is best, internationally, for giving Nonito Donaire a few really tough rounds back in 2008, before being stopped on cuts in round 6. Since then the South African has gone 13-0 (9), with some notable issues with inactivity plaguing his career. Although he hasn't been massively active he has notched up some brilliant wins, including victories over Julio Cesar Miranda, Zolani Tete, Johnriel Casimero and Ricardo Nunez. Sadly he has, like many African fighters, struggled to get the career defining fights on a big stage and actually gave up the IBF title rather than get paid pennies to face a then unknown Amnat Ruenroeng after 4 defenses.
Since vacating the IBF title Mthalane has been arguably the best Flyweight to essentially be locked out of the title picture. He's too dangerous to face as a voluntary and he was unable to secure a mandatory position until the IBF title was vacated by Donnie Nietes. Despite missing out on a world title fight he has been picking up his activity and he fit 3 fights into 2017, winning all 3 by stoppage.
At the age of 35, soon to be 36, the South African will know that a loss will be the end of his hopes of becoming a 2-time world champion, at least with the 4 big organisations. He is however a tough, skilled, accurate and aggressive fighter with very under-rated power who will look to take the fight to his foe here.
Waseem on the other hand is a bit of an unknown to many fans, and this will be, by far, the highest profile bout of his career. The Pakistani born fighter turned professional in 2015 under the promotional guidance of Andy Kim, who has matched Waseem aggressively and gotten him very high level training. He made his professional debut in a 10 round bout for the Korean Bantamweight title and less than 10 months later he had claimed the WBC Silver Flyweight title. From then on it seemed like he was heading towards a WBC title fight but financial issues almost derailed his career. What had been a fast track to the top approach for Waseem hit a brick wall and he spent 2017 fighting in stay busy fights on under-cards in Panama.
In the ring Waseem has looked like a fighter able to do it all. He can box, he can bang and he can move. He began his career like a fighter wanting to test things, get used to the ring and the distance of a fight, looking like he was working on things all the time. After his 2016 win over Giemel Magramo however he's had to do a lot less to pick up wins and instead beaten some very abject opponents in any way that he wanted. If he can still mix the different styles together then it's very possible that he could use his speed to out fox and bamboozle the hard hitting Mthalane.
At 30 years old Waseem is young enough to have a nice reign, if he comes out on top here, but given his lack of financial backing there is a real issue he could find his reign cut short like Mthalane did when he held the title a few years ago.
Although there is a huge gulf in experience here we do actually favour Waseem. He appears to be the fresher fighter, the fighter who hasn't had the bouts against the likes of Donaire and Nunez. Mthalane is going to be dangerous through the fight, and Waseem can't get lazy, but if he uses his legs, moves and prevents Mthalane from setting his feet there's a great chance for Korea and Pakistan to claim a world champion.
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.