Malinga, Hall vie for vacant belt

South Africa’s Vusi Malinga has twice before fought for a bantamweight world title. Neither went very well for him.

In 2009, he got knocked out in the first round by then-titleholder Hozumi Hasegawa in Japan. In 2012, he lost a near-shutout decision to Leo Santa Cruz in a fight for a vacant belt.

Now he is getting a third chance when he faces England’s Stuart Hall for a vacant belt on Saturday night (BoxNation in Great Britain) at the First Direct Arena in Leeds, England.

Even though Malinga (21-4-1, 12 KOs), 34, lost in his two world title bouts, he is a step up for Hall (15-2-1, 7 KOs), 33, who has won three in a row.

“I can’t believe that the time is near at hand,” Hall said. “I’ve been working and preparing for this opportunity for so long and to get the chance of getting my hands on a world title is a dream come true. I’m ready for this fight and whatever it takes, even if it means going through hell and back, then I’m willing to do that. I have everything in my favor and feel this is my time now. I want to go out there and do myself and the country proud."

Hall lost to his best opponent, a decision to Jamie McDonnell in a 2011 European bantamweight title fight in September 2011. McDonnell later claimed a world title but was stripped. Malinga and Hall will be fighting for that vacant belt.

“When you get to this level every fight and every fighter presents a new challenge,” Hall said. “I have shared the ring with some skilled and crafty fighters on my route here and know that Malinga is not coming over here to lie down.

“He’s going to do everything to make sure he goes back home with the belt, but I believe I’m going to have too much for him. My will and my drive for this fight is unbelievable and I’ve done some really excellent work to get me ready and in shape for this fight. Malinga is going to see the best Stuart Hall in there, one who is ready to do that bit extra in everything. I’m going for the knockout and believe I can get it because I don’t want to leave anything to chance and I want to take the decision out of the judges’ hands.”

If Hall wins, he said he would be happy to fight McDonnell, also from England, again.

“Of course, I would like to fight McDonnell again in the future,” Hall said. “Our fight was very close and I believe I have grown and learned so much from then. My aim is to get this world title first and foremost on Saturday and then I can look down the line. A rematch with McDonnell definitely appeals to me. It would be a huge domestic fight, particularly if there is world title on the line.”