Moruti Mthalane of South Africa (R) fights against Masayuki Kuroda of Japan during their IBF flyweight title boxing bout in Tokyo on May 13, 2019. Picture: CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP
Moruti Mthalane of South Africa (R) fights against Masayuki Kuroda of Japan during their IBF flyweight title boxing bout in Tokyo on May 13, 2019. Picture: CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP

Moruti Mthalane was unfazed when the old SA anthem was played before his world title defence against Masayuki Kuroda in Tokyo on Monday.

Instead of the strains of Nkosi Sikelel ‘iAfrika drifting into the arena‚ the old apartheid-drenched paean‚ The Call of SA‚ or Die Stem as it was better known back in the day‚ gatecrashed the auditory senses.

“I wasn’t surprised‚” said Mthalane. “My mind was on the fight‚ I was ready for anything.”

Mthalane and Kuroda stood toe to toe for most of the 12 rounds‚ with the South African producing a strong finish to clinch a unanimous decision and retain his IBF flyweight crown.

“I just found that bizarre‚” Mthalane’s trainer and manager‚ Colin Nathan‚ said of the anthem botch-up. “I thought that was poor form.”

One has to wonder where the Japanese found the soundtrack considering that they were among the many nations who boycotted SA in the sports arena during apartheid.

The mistake was reminiscent of when Johnny du Plooy fought Italian Francesco Damiani for the vacant WBO heavyweight title in Sicily in 1989‚ and instead of Die Stem‚ organisers played God Save The Queen.

Unlike Du Plooy‚ who got knocked out in the third round‚ Mthalane delivered a commanding performance.

The South African landed punishing blows throughout the fight‚ leaving the face of the mandatory challenger in a mess‚ with a closed right eye and a cut on the left.

The veteran champion praised his opponent’s durability‚ saying he landed shots that hurt. “He was catching me with some punches‚” he said. “They hurt‚ not that they were going to put me down. I think I hurt him more than he hurt me.”

Fair assessment. The judges thought so too with two scorecards of 116-112 and one of 117-111.

Mthalane was behind after the first four rounds and crept into the lead by the eighth.

While the boxer is looking to enjoy some down time with his family‚ Nathan will be plotting his future. “I can tell you the unification is being talked about‚” the manager said.

Mthalane was recently signed by international boxing management company MTK Global‚ which has on its books Briton Charlie Edwards‚ owner of the WBC belt.

Mthalane‚ 36‚ has a record that reads 38 victories and two losses‚ while Kuroda‚ 32‚ has 30 wins‚ eight defeats and three draws.