By Ron Jackson
Malcolm Klassen produced the performance of his life when he stopped Cassius Baloyi in the seventh round to regain the IBF junior lightweight title in Mafikeng, South Africa, on Saturday night. In a stunning exhibition of controlled aggression, the younger man became the first fighter to stop Baloyi, who had held six belts from various world organisations. The bout at the Northwest University campus ended 2 minutes 26 seconds into the seventh round when referee Sam Williams saved the 34-year-old champion from more punishment. Klassen, 28, had Baloyi in deep trouble at the end of the first round when the veteran was saved by the bell. The hungry challenger never let up from there, beating his stablemate to the punch and brushing off the few solid blows “The Hitman” managed to land. Baloyi, fighting in his 24th world title bout, was thoroughly outclassed for the first time in his career. His record dropped to 36-4-1, including 19 stoppages. Klassen’s improved to 24-4-2; 14.
Baloyi has been a professional for 16 years, and it showed in this tournament presented by Branco Sports Productions.
He had taken a number of solid blows before Klassen stepped up another gear and poured dozens of blows over him at the start of the seventh round.
It was Baloyi’s second defence of the IBF belt that he regained when he outpointed Mzonke Fana in Mafikeng in April last year. He had won the belt when he beat Mexican veteran Manuel Medina in 2006 but lost if to Gairy St Clair, who passed it on to Klassen, who lost it to Fana.
There were signs that age was catching up when Baloyi regained the title from Fana and after this beating from Klassen he will have to get out or work twice as hard to remain competitive at this level.
Klassen, supremely confident and focused throughout the fight, can look forward to some big pay packets against international competition now that he is back at the top.
He came in at a superbly conditioned 58.36 kg and the taller Baloyi at 58.60.
On the undercard, Moruti Mthalane (23-2) retained his SA flyweight title when he knocked out Lehlohonolo Ramagole (7-2) at 2:26 of the third round.
Ramagolo (50.40 kg) started well but his lack of experience soon showed as the champion (50.74 kg) took control.