IBF flyweight champion Moruti “Babyface” Mthalane 36-2 (24) says that winning the world title for the second time is even sweeter than the first after scoring a close but unanimous decision victory over Muhammad “Falcon” Waseem 8-1 (6) on the undercard of the WBA welterweight world title fight between Lucas Matthysse and Manny Pacquiao at Axiata Arena in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on Sunday.
“[Winning it again] now feels better‚” said Mthalane to South Africa’s Times Media.
In a tough and closely fought contest, Mthalane recovered from an eleventh round knockdown to secure the win by scores of 116-110 and 114-113 twice.
“I don’t know how he caught me‚ maybe I’ll see it properly when I watch the fight. But I was not finished‚ my legs were still okay and I came back strongly in the 12th round,” he said. “What’s important is that I got off the canvas to win the fight.”
The 35-year-old South African first won the vacant IBF flyweight title almost nine years ago when he outpointed Julio Cesar Miranda of Mexico in November 2009.
Mthalane made four successful defence of the title, including a fifth round TKO of current WBO bantamweight champion Zolani Tete, before being stripped for inactivity when he refused to fight Thailand’s Amnat Ruenroeng after his then-trainer Nick Durant claimed he would have been “fighting for peanuts in Bangkok”.
Ruenroeng, a Beijing Olympian, would go on to defeat Rocky Fuentes by unanimous decision for the vacant title in Thailand while Mthalane considered retirement.
“I didn’t know if I was going to get it back,” admitted Mthalane. “It shows that in everything in life you have to be patient.”
The 30-year-old Waseem, born in Pakistan but based in Seoul, South Korea, was a standout amateur with medals in both the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games. Mthalane admitted that despite his inexperience in the pro ranks, Waseem presented one of his toughest challenges in his 38-fight pro career.
“I fought a great opponent. It was a tough fight. I knew it was going to be a war. When I hit him he hit me back,” he said.