By Ron Jackson
In one of the most eagerly awaited clashes on the South African boxing scene in recent years Cassius Baloyi defends his IBF junior lightweight belt against Malcolm Klassen at the Northwest University in Mafikeng on Saturday. The tournament is presented by Branco Milenkovic of Branco Sports Productions. The 34-year-old Baloyi (36-3-1, 19 KOs) who has won six world organisation belts will be taking part in his 24th “world” title fight in his sixteenth year as a professional fighter. He will be making the second defence of his IBF belt that he regained when he outpointed Mzonke Fana in Mafikeng in April last year.
When Baloyi lost to the much bigger Isaac Hlatshwayo in August 2005 in a clash for the vacant IBO lightweight belt many of his critics advised him to retire. However, he ignored their advice and on May 31, 2006 travelled to Washington, USA and beat Mexican veteran Manuel Medina to win the vacate and more prestigious IBF junior lightweight belt.
He subsequently lost the belt to Gairy St Clair on a hotly disputed decision and even though he regained the belt against the light punching Fana there were signs that he was an aging fighter.
Klassen, 28, who made his pro debut in 1999 won the vacant South African featherweight title in August 2005 when he outpointed Edward Mpofu. He subsequently made successful defences against Lindile Tyhali, Willie Mabasa and Manelisi Mbilase before relinquishing the title after winning the IBF junior lightweight belt in November 2006.
When Klassen (23-4-2, 13 KOs) outpointed Gairy St Clair to win the IBF belt it was considered a major upset as he was having his first fight in the junior lightweight division.
In a closely contested fight with Mzonke Fana in April 2007 he lost the IBF belt in his first defence.
Putting this setback behind him he won against Edward Mpofu, Pablo Ernesto Oliveto, Joel de la Cruz and Manuel Medina, all inside the distance. Age could be a factor for Baloyi as you never know when it catches up with a fighter, whereas Klassen will rely heavily on his speed. However, the experience of Baloyi will make it tough for the shorter Klassen in a fight that could go to a close decision either way.
In the main supporting bout scheduled for 12 rounds world ranked Moruti Mthalane 22-2 defends his SA flyweight title against Lehlohonolo Ramagole 7-1. The only two defeats on Mthalane’s record were against Nkqubela Gwazela when challenging for the SA flyweight title and the controversial cut eye loss to Nonito Donaire when challenging for the for the IBF and IBO flyweight belts.
The 25-year-old Ramagole has only lost to Joel Kunene.
In another scheduled 12 rounder Lesley Sekotswe 8-0 from Botswana defends his African Boxing Union International super flyweight title against Nkosana Sobethu 17-10-3 from the Eastern Cape.
Other bouts: Welterweight, 6 rounds: Mthobisi Buthelezi v Seroba Binda; Lightweight, 6 rounds: Vusumzi Tyatyeka v Joseph Modise; Bantamweight, 6 rounds: Cletus Mbhele v Johannes Nthontho, Flyweight, 6 rounds: Anele Makwelo v Maluleki Jola; Bantamweight, 6 rounds: Godlife Mabitsela v Siyanda Mfundisi; Junior middleweight, 4 rounds: Sandra Almeida v Essiane Clotilde.