By Tré Berry III🖊️
The co-headliner to the fight card in Yokohama Arena brought some excitement to the Yokohama natives as IBF Flyweight Titlist 🇿🇦Moruti Mthalane (39-2-0, 26KO👊) put up a consistent strong performance against a routinely tough challenge offered up by 🇯🇵Akira Yaegashi (28-7-0, 16KO👊) to eventually get the stoppage victory in the mid-portion of the rounds for his 3rd defense of this second stint in him holding the IBF belt.
The early tone set was that Yaegashi for the first quarter of the fight would box on the outside to take a long look at Mthalane and figuring out his game plan. This of course made Mthalane stalk him to cut the ring off. Mthalane being a versatile weapon had no problems in matching what Yaegashi wanted to do from a tactical standpoint, which is one of the main reasons why he has been a dominant cog in the lower weight divisions this past decade. By the time the 4th round came about, Yaegashi decided to ditch his outside boxing to do what he does best, and that is to bull his way straight forward to get inside of Mthalane’s long rangy arms – and from here, a fight ultimately broke out with highly sustained action. Mthalane kept a very consistent work rate, and was carefully placing his shots to hit the always willing 🎯target that Yaegashi reveals to his opponents (he’s never been known for his defense). All things considered, Yaegashi has always been a pleasure to watch, and this fight was a reminder to me as to why. He authored up some pretty strong moments in the 6th round where he got completely loose and started to let his hands go, but Mthalane at the end of the day was adding data to his bank.
Much of what was collected paid off in the 7th round heavily as Moruti had his best round, a dominant one as he landed multiple blistering combinations at a high connect percentage. Mthalane hurt Yaegashi with a big left hook to the body and stayed on him, but in customary fashion, Yaegashi weathered the ⛈️storm to have moments of his own down the stretch of the round. What is also customary for Yaegashi is the heavy swelling around both of his eyes that he normally endures in the wars he takes part in. Mthalane landed a beautiful right cross to the chin that wobbled the Japanese war-horse badly. Refusing to gown, Mthalane pummeled him extensively, diversifying his punches well and keeping Yaegashi off-balance with what was to come. Akira would find spots to fire something big back through the onslaught. As the 10-second marker was signaled, a strange decision was made by the 🗣️Referee Mario Gonzalez to step in and call a stop to the bout while Yaegashi was in the middle of firing punches. Accumulatively, Yaegashi perhaps did endure enough punishment to warrant a stoppage, but assessing the flow of the moment, he should have at least had the privilege to get to and see the end of the round so that a decision could be made by him, his team, the Ref, and/or the Doctor while he’s on the stool to full gauge whether he was in a condition to continue or not. Mthalane with this TKO win continues an incredible run and unbeaten streak dating back 11 years, and once again put up a strong effort to prove once again to be a dominant cog in the Flyweight division, and in being arguably the best fighter at the weight category – certainly he is its most consistent contributor at the world class level.