The ag­gres­sor meets the tricky in ring

Sunday Times - - SPORT - DAVID ISAAC­SON

JOHNNY Muller ar­rived at train­ing this week wear­ing his trade­mark boy­ish grin and the usual high dose of de­ter­mi­na­tion he’s car­ried since his am­a­teur days.

You can’t fault his heart, but trainer Harold Vol­brecht can of­fer a list of tech­ni­cal er­rors he’s had to work on over the years.

Muller will need to ex­e­cute the fight plan if he wants to un­lock the awk­ward crouch­ing style of Thabiso Mchunu at Em­per­ors Palace in the east of Jo­han­nes­burg on Sat­ur­day night.

South­paw Mchunu, who lifts his right el­bow as part of his de­fen­sive wall, will look to off­load his left against the nor­mally ag­gres­sive Muller. Both fight­ers have lost two of their last three bouts, but their con­trast­ing styles make this con­test in­ter­est­ing.

Muller is un­fazed by the prospect of fac­ing Mchunu, point­ing out they have sparred to­gether be­fore.

“I know he’s an awk­ward guy. He’s one of the top guys I’ve faced, but I think he’s past his time. He’s never had a gas tank,” he said.

“He’s not a guy who wants to get in there and work.” Muller, on the other hand, is. As a school­boy, he didn’t like the ca­sual at­ti­tude at his box­ing gym, just around the cor­ner from his home in Rood­e­poort on the West Rand.

So he joined the fa­mous Booy­sens out­fit in Jo­han­nes­burg’s south, ad­mit­ting he drove him­self there with­out a li­cence when his par­ents, both work­ing, were un­able to take him.

“I was naughty,” the fa­ther of one said, flash­ing that smile again.

There were plenty of fights in the school­yard, but some­thing changed when Muller started box­ing. “I was taught to hit back, but as soon as I started box­ing, I learned re­spect.

“Then I would stop the fights. The teach­ers would call me [out of class] to stop fights,” said Muller, a flanker at school who, be­cause he was al­ways fit, never shied away from any­one.

He won three na­tional ti­tles as an am­a­teur, where his con­di­tion­ing cam­ou­flaged his lack of fi­nesse. “I just knew jab-jab-right, one-two. I was al­ways fit so it was easy.”

Muller joined Vol­brecht’s Ham­mer gym on the East Rand af­ter four pro­fes­sional fights, which in­cluded two vic­to­ries over Vol­brecht fight­ers. “He was wild, just throw­ing punches,” re­called Vol­brecht. “He was like a fan you switch on.”

Muller suf­fered cuts for a while which he later re­alised was the re­sult of a snail gel face cream he was us­ing which made the skin thin­ner.

He’s stopped that, and he’s learn­ing to keep his guards up. “My body is strong, I want to pro­tect my brain.”

The bill, also fea­tur­ing un­beaten wel­ter­weight Thu­lani “Tulz” Mbenge, who is look­ing to earn a world rank­ing, will be on SS4 from 8.30pm. CON­TRAST­ING STYLES: Johnny Muller, left, is con­fi­dent he can un­lock the cagey style of south­paw op­po­nent Thabiso Mchunu on Sat­ur­day night

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