Stuey has Hall to play for
Our Simon Crawford believes Stuart Hall can shade a points decision against Vusi Malinga and become a world champion this weekend.
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Several twists of fate mean that Darlington bantamweight Stuart Hall has the opportunity to become the IBF world champion when he faces tough South Africa's Vusi Malinga in Leeds this weekend.
A unlikely chain of events that saw Doncaster's Jamie McDonnell harshly stripped of the belt, IBF No 3 Stephane Jamoye suffering a surprise defeat and Cesar Seda moving up in weight has meant Hall and Malinga will now slug it out for the world crown.
British champion Hall, 33, was a relative latecomer to the paid ranks, debuting in 2008, and has chalked up a record of 15-2-1 (7KOs), with the two defeats coming against fellow Brits McDonnell and Lee Haskins as he challenged for the European title.
Malinga, 34, is the nephew of Sugar Boy Malinga who upset British star Nigel Benn back in 1996 to win the WBC super-middleweight title.
He has two failed world title attempts on his CV (21-4-1 12KOs), both coming outside of his homeland as he lost to Hozumi Hasegawa in Japan for the WBC crown in 2009 - knocked out in a round.
Three years later, this time in America, the Guateng native came unstuck against huge-hitting Mexican Leo Santa Cruz, losing on points.
Malinga might just shade it on experience, but overall I think we have two very evenly matched fighters and the crucial factor might just be who wants it more on the night.
Hall goes into the fight on the back of a career-best points win over Sergio Perales back in May for the IBF Inter-Continental belt, which has earned him this shot at the world title.
He has a punishing jab, a long reach and is more than happy to mix it up on the inside if the situation dictates it.
By contrast, Malinga is a southpaw who likes to pressure his opponents but I suspect he will tire towards the end of a championship fight and this is where the supremely fit Hall can come into his own.
He also possesses huge grit and determination, plus being the home fighter I think he can just edge a tight points decision.
"Nights like this just don't get any bigger. Fighting for a world title is what I've dreamed about and what I've worked for all my life," Hall told sportinglife.com earlier this week.
"He's a tough African and I know I'll need to break his heart. He is going to try his hardest ... but I'm going to try harder. The only way I can lose is if I let him win it."
Malinga has not travelled well in the past and each time he has fought for a world title he has fallen short which also surely has to play on his mind.
Expect an even contest before Hall pulls clear in the final three or four rounds to get the nod from the judges.
Malinga goes into the fight as favourite and Betfred's 4/7 is the best price among the layers, while Hall is a best of 15/8 with BetVictor which I find a very tempting price.
However, I'm certain that if Hall does prevail it'll be on points and that is a stand out 2/1 with Betfred so I'm having a punt on that.