May 9, 2021

Sunny Edwards defeats Moruti Mthalane to become IBF flyweight champion

Sunny Edwards produces a display of mesmerising backfoot boxing to overcome strong IBF flyweight champion Moruti Mthalane

BRITAIN has a new world champion. His name is Sunny Edwards. Facing Moruti Mthalane across the ring on Friday (April 30) at York Hall in London, it looked like man against boy. Sunny is a young 25, while at 38 South Africa’s Mthalane is a veteran and a dangerous one. He hasn’t lost since boxing Nonito Donaire in 2008, he’s beaten John Riel Casimero and Zolani Tete in the past and began his second reign as IBF flyweight champion in 2018.

Moruti didn’t look rusty either as he closed in quickly on Edwards. But Edwards was faster. He moved easily across the canvas, peppering Mthalane with southpaw jabs.

Mthalane had to work hard for his successes, heaving solid rights over and slamming a shuddering left hook into Edwards’ jaw in the fourth round. But Edwards maintained his perpetual motion, circling Mthalane, to dart his left through the South African’s guard and then help himself to quick right hooks into the body.

Throughout Mthalane exerted real pressure and he grabbed the occasional round when he could pin Sunny beneath a barrage of hooks. But those successes were fleeting. Edwards kept himself that fraction of an inch ahead of Mthalane’s shots, dropping his hands and slinging in counters with gusto even as Moruti came tearing after him. Mthalane could not break him down and Edwards, operating at world level for the first time, performed with remarkable aplomb. A sustained feat of energy, constant movement and at times real grit.

Edwards won a unanimous decision, 115-113 for Ian John-Lewis, 118-111 for Steve Gray and 120-108 for Bob Williams.

Like his older brother Charlie, Sunny is now a world champion, the proud holder of the IBF title.

Michael Conlan had insisted he would knock out Ionut Baluta before their 12-rounder. He did not however manage to do so and the Romanian was characteristically game. Baluta cantered forward in bursts, bellowing as he slung multiple shots at the man from Belfast. These charges were eye-catching but Conlan judged the distance better, stepping back, taking shots on his gloves or arms and often moving his head well beneath the incoming punches.

Baluta did catch him at times, hacking his blows in energetically. But by far the higher quality work was coming from Conlan. He jabbed cleanly to Baluta’s head and body, as well as switching easily from orthodox to southpaw in the first half of the fight. Many of Ionut’s rushes were met with a crisp hook from his right hand or lead left.

Cantering away and sidling from side to side, Ionut forced Conlan to march after him and the Romanian did leap on to the front foot to catch Michael out with raiding attacks. But increasingly Baluta felt the pain of the shots Conlan invested in the body, targeting his ribs with right hooks. Conlan ripped in punches to have Baluta squirming at times but he never put him down.

Conlan took a majority decision win, 117-112 and 115-114 for Ian John Lewis and Howard Foster. Bob Williams’ level 114-114 card came as a surprise, overall Conlan seemed to be in clear control of the fight.  

England’s Troy Williamson and Scotland’s Kieran Smith met in an eliminator for the British super-welterweight title. Too often they lunged into clinches and their contest soon became messy. But it was Williamson’s power that came through. He slammed his backhand right into Smith’s jaw, shaking him up in the first round.

The Scottish southpaw fired off combinations, throwing punches to keep Williamson off him in the second round. He settled as the bout continued, jarring the Darlington man with a sharp one-two. Williamson was often clumsy, or at least mistimed his attacks, but the weight of his shots made all the difference. In the sixth round he hurt Smith badly. As the Scot listed into the ropes, Williams banged right hook after right hook into his unguarded head, dropping and stopping him at 1-28. Paramedics had to administer oxygen to Smith immediately afterwards.