Former IBF flyweight titleholder Moruti Mthalane eked out a split-decision over Filipino contender Jether Oliva in his first fight in 18 months on Saturday at the Durban International Convention Centre in Durban, South Africa.
Two judges scored the fight 116-112 and 117-112 for Mthalane (30-2, 20 knockouts) while a third scored it 115-113 for Oliva (20-2-2, 10 KOs).
Mthalane, 31, who vacated the title he held for four years last year after failing to come to terms with mandatory challenger Amnat Ruenroeng, fought nearly the entire fight with blood streaming from his left eye.
Mthalane continued to press forward, landing effectively with stiff jabs on his 26-year-old opponent, whose only prior loss was an unsuccessful challenge of then-IBF junior flyweight titleholder Ulises Solis in 2011.
Oliva, a more natural 108-pounder was able to get through with his quicker hands, and by the end of the fight both of Mthalane's eyes were shut. Oliva's best work was to the body, as Mthalane raised his guard high to protect his eyes.
This was Mthalane's first fight since knocking out Ricardo Nunez in eight rounds in September of 2012. Oliva had been active since returning from a two year layoff in May of 2013, but hadn't fought anyone the level of Mthalane since the Solis fight.
Photo courtesy Team Oliva