Moruti Mthalane determined to come full circle and regain IBF belt

Flyweight boxer Maluti 'Babyface' Mthalane will go up against Muhammad Waseem in Kuala Lampur this weekend for the vacant IBF belt. Nick Lourens

Former International Boxing Federation (IBF) champion Moruti "Babyface" Mthalane is aiming to regain his flyweight title this weekend when he takes on Muhammad Waseem for the vacant belt in Malaysia.

South Africa's Mthalane, who returned to the ring last year after more than a year out, takes on Pakistan's Waseem on Saturday in Kuala Lumpur, on the undercard of the Manny Pacquiao-Lucas Matthysse bout.

Mthalane, a former IBO champion, is ranked at number five by ESPN and second by Ring Magazine, as he looks to regain the IBF title he never actually lost in the ring, having watched it disappear due to 'inactivity' in 2014.

"I've spent a lot of time getting ready for this fight and I can feel the body is ready to go," Mthalane tells KweséESPN. "All I'm waiting for is the 15th so I can win."

Babyface is determined to regain his IBF crown after being stripped of it due to inactivity four years ago, when he refused to fight Thailand's Amnat Ruenroeng in a mandatory defence. His then-trainer, Nick Durant, called the prize money on offer a 'disgrace'.

Now, the 35-year-old, under the mentorship of Colin Nathan, says: "I'm happy for the opportunity to fight for the title which I held before.

"I have moved on from what made me lose the title. I'm focused on bringing back the title."

He adds: "It [the inactivity] broke my heart. I even considered retiring from boxing but people I'm close to encouraged me to keep going and told me that I could be champion again.

"It's not nice going to the gym with no fight coming up but I kept hope alive. I also looked at what I have received in life and knew that I got it all from boxing."

He will be taking on an inexperienced fighter in Waseem, who has had only eight professional fights compared to Mthalane's 37, but the Kwa-Zulu Natal man is not taking a win for granted.

"I've watched his fights and I can see he is very good," says Mthalane.

"That's what has pushed me to work hard for this fight. I'm not taking him lightly but I will be the one who is successful on the night."

Those around the fighter, who is 35-2 (24 knockouts) will tell you that his record speaks for itself. His last defeat was back in 2008, to a prime Nonito Donaire. He has also beaten the likes of Zolani Tete and Joel Casimero.

Nathan, who also trains WBA and IBF champion Hekkie Budler, tells KweséESPN: "Expect a timeless performance from one of the great fighters from South Africa.

"[He will come] full circle in becoming the IBF World Champion, his title that was not lost in the ring but lost due to boxing politics."

Mthalane sees a unification bout in his future, and is confident this weekend in Malaysia will set him on that path: "I would like to mix it up with the WBA, WBO and WBC champions.

"Seeing that I'm going to win this belt, I'd like to have the opportunity to unify titles. But for now I don't want to get into that, I just need to focus on Muhammad Waseem."