Sometimes it’s all about being in the right place at the right time, and that is most definitely the case for former British and Commonwealth champion Stuart Hall.
The game slugger from Darlington, England holds a lofty position in the IBF bantamweight rankings and when countryman Jamie McDonnell was stripped of the title, for failing to agree terms with number one challenger Vusi Malinga, the phone rang and Hall (15-2-1, 7 knockouts) was next in line for a shot at the vacant strap.
Although he has already made his mark domestically at 118 pounds, this will be Hall’s first world title opportunity. Conversely, Malinga, having previously lost out to Japan’s Hozumi Hasegawa and reigning WBC junior featherweight titlist Leo Santa Cruz, will be hoping Dec. 21st is third time lucky.
Malinga, a hard punching left hander from South Africa, is highly respected and always comes to fight. Hall is equally tenacious and admits that a toe to toe war is his preferred choice, when the two clash in Leeds, England on Saturday night. As indicated the respective styles of both men suggest fans are in for an explosive encounter.
Ring TV spoke to Hall who is fighting fit and ready for whatever the dangerous South African throws his way.
Ring TV: It’s only a matter of weeks until the biggest fight of your career. How have things been with your physical and mental preparation?
SH: Camp has been fantastic and I’m in a great place physically and mentally. It’s all about timing in this game and I’m ready to go. I’ve had a few different sparring partners, but I’ve mainly worked with Rendall Munroe (who has a victory over IBF junior featherweight champion Kiko Martinez). Rendall is a world class operator, who is bigger than my opponent and similar, in that he likes to mix it up on the inside.
RTV: What can you tell me about Vusi Malinga?
SH: I don’t know an awful lot about him to be honest. I watched a bit of footage on the internet, but you can’t really take anything from that. He just looks like a really tough southpaw, who comes forward, gets in your face, and that is the type of opponent who brings out the best in me. I love a tear up.
RTV: As you said Malinga is a southpaw and so was your most recent opponent, Sergio Perales. How do you normally fair against the lefty stance?
SH: You just have to get used to the southpaw stance and make the necessary adjustments. Perales was a slick southpaw, who moved a lot, whereas Malinga will look to engage. In this fight I expect to be doing my best work in the pocket and that is where I’m at my most lethal.
RTV: What attributes do you have which will trouble Malinga the most?
SH: I can match any bantamweight in the world, when I go toe to toe, but I also have a good boxing brain, which people don’t realize. It will all come together on the night and I’m going to use all of my skills in this fight.
RTV: Malinga looks to have a great engine. Are you confident that you can mix it up for twelve rounds at a fast pace?
SH: Most definitely. I just sparred eight rounds with Rendall (Munroe) and he’s constantly in my face, so I’m more than capable of doing another four, when there’s a world title up for grabs. No problem whatsoever.
RTV: Your title shot has perhaps arrived slightly earlier than it would have had Jamie McDonnell not been stripped. What are your thoughts on that whole situation?
SH: It was a sad situation for Jamie and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, but if he was in my shoes he’d take his chance, just like I have. I’m a fighter and world title shots are very hard to come by, so I grabbed this opportunity with both hands. I’ve always wanted a rematch with Jamie McDonnell (who defeated Hall by unanimous decision in Sept. 2011) and I must get past Malinga to make that happen. Still, I can’t look past the job in hand.
RTV: That leads me to my next question. You had a classic pitch battle with Jamie McDonnell for the British, Commonwealth and European titles. How would it feel to defend a world title against him, if you were to emerge victorious?
SH: It would be fantastic and I’ve always wanted to avenge that loss, which I believe I would, because I was a baby going into that fight. It was my first twelve rounder and although he’s improves a lot, so have I. It would be great, but I’m heading into the fight of my life, and my goal is to become world champion. Anything after that is a bonus.
RTV: What is your ultimate motivation in this fight?
SH: There’s only been one other world champion from the North East of England (Glenn McCrory won the IBF cruiserweight title in June 1989) so I want to be in those history books. I want to make my family and my kids proud of me and winning that IBF belt is my ultimate goal.
RTV: Prediction for fight night?
SH: I don’t normally make predictions or pick rounds, but what I can tell you is I’ll be out of the blocks fast. Everyone is saying how tough he is, but I’m going to be punching him as hard as I can, and we’ll see if that slows him down. The fans will be the winners in this fight, because Malinga and I will meet in ring center and this will be a toe to toe war.
British fight fans can see Hall vs. Malinga Live and Exclusive on BoxNation via Sky Channel 437 or Virgin Channel 546 from 7.00pm. Visit www.boxnation.com to subscribe.
Photos /Scott Heavey-Getty Images
Tom Gray is a member of the British Boxing Writers’ Association and contributes to various publications. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing