The Friday Faceup

Flyweights match up. Photo courtesy of Queensberry Promotions.

Tonight in the famous York Hall, Bethnal Green in London’s east end another British flyweight champion bids to win the IBF version of the world 8st/112lbs title.

Back in 1983 ‘Champagne’ Charlie Magri from nearby Stepney wrestled the WBC title from Eleoncio Mercedes to become a household name, appearing on the popular ‘This is Your Life’ programme at the time. More recently another Charlie (Edwards), won the same WBC title against Christofer Rosales without so much fanfare. In between we’ve had three-weight world champion Duke McKenzie and several other holders of splintered titles. The flyweight division is one of the original eight classifications and over the years has been good to UK fighters.

Sunny Edwards, brother of Charlie, will tonight live on BT Sport attempt to win the title off South Africa’s Moruti Mthalane, a champion of such experience and quality that many believe he should be in the pound-for-pound listings. A ranking regardless of weight class that illustrates the best in the business.

Mthalane is an exceptional champion who brings a 39-2 (26 KO) record to the ring, hasn’t lost since 2008 and been the IBF world champion since 2018. Over his career he’s defeated some recognised names around his weight class who still or recently held versions of the title. A product of South Africa’s former apartheid system, Moruti has come from a tough environment, been in tough fights and, by now experienced almost every obstacle life can throw at someone.

This though leads to the one slight against him in a fistic sense, that of his advancing years. At 38, Mthalane ‘may’ be ripe for the picking.

Frank Warren, who’s Queensberry Promotions present the event, is known for taking a gamble and especially in these difficult COVID times has had to take more than a fair few recently. He’s seen several of his charges lose in big fights (Dubois, Yarde, Bentley) and is due a win.

Sunny Edwards (15-0, 4 KO’s) in comparison to Mthalane is a raw novice, but has the youth, style and confidence to dethrone the champion. He will have the confidence of being British champion and also have the support and experience of his brother to draw from.

‘Showtime’ Sunny is a slickster who despite being short on power has excellent boxing ability. He rarely gets in close contact with his opponents and is difficult to pin down. The South African by comparison is the antithesis of the Brit. He fights out of a good, tight guard but is more willing to engage behind the confidence of his exceptional power. This promises to be a classic ‘cat and mouse’ contest with the 24 year old Edwards attempting to frustrate the champion and draw him late into the fight.

Esteemed South African boxing writer and historian Ron Jackson is an admirer of Mthalane’s class but fearful that the timing might be right for Edwards.

Whether the Brit can prevail is going to be determined by his ability to avoid Mthalane’s advances and him detonating the big bombs. If he can do that then Edwards will have won a legitimate version of the title against an elite champion. The smart money though is on the South African to retain his title inside the twelve round distance.

The event will also feature double Olympian and rising star Michael Conlan. The Belfast man at 14-0 (8 KO’s) is still predicted to win big prizes as a pro and after an extended layoff will face Ionut Baluta before hopefully challenging for world honours as a super-bantam or featherweight in 2021.

The whole card will be shown live in the UK on BT Sport from 19:00 BST.

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