Piet Crous - A hard man from Brixton by Ron Jackson

One of the hardest men ever to climb through the ropes of a boxing ring in South Africa was Piet Crous.

Now 57 years old, Crous is still in tremendous shape and still working as a claims superintendant for a large insurance company. He is also a regular visitor to meetings of the East Rand Veterans Boxing Association in Primrose, Germiston.

Only a slight dent on his nose shows that the tall, lean Crous used to be a professional boxer. And a good one he was, too. He held the SA light-heavyweight and WBA cruiserweight titles in the 1980s.

Pieter Arnoldus Crous, who was born on July 2 1955, attended the Piet van Vuuren Junior School and Vorentoe High, both in Brixton, only a few kilometres from the Johannesburg city centre.

He was a useful amateur but after completing his military stint in 1971 he gave up boxing and concentrated on rugby for the next few years.

It was only after he got married that he took up professional boxing to make some extra money. He started training at Pierre Fourie’s gymnasium in Mayfair, just down the road from where he had grown up.

Crous made his debut as a lightheavyweight when he fought Barend Steyn at the Rapport Hall in Mayfair on November 14 1977. Steyn had a relative, former three -time SA champion Andries Steyn, in his corner but Crous won on a first-round knockout.

In 1978, Crous had only two fights, winning inside the distance against Brian Smith and Gert Joubert. And when his mentor, Pierre Fourie, was killed in a road accident, Crous lost interest in boxing. The small purses were not worth all the effort in the gym, he felt.

However, he still trained at the Mayfair gym to keep fit and that is where Willie Toweel arrived one day and convinced the 25-year-old Crous to start boxing again.

Under the guidance of Toweel and after an absence of 29 months he went in against Petrus Espag in Secunda on April 21 1980 and won on a first-round knockout.

He won his next four fights, all inside the distance, including one against former SA middleweight champion Daniel Mapanya. He was taken the distance for the first time when he drew over six rounds with Willie Opperman.

This made him more determined and he worked even harder. In his next fight he beat Prince Tukane on points over eight rounds in Cape Town and then gained revenge when he stopped Opperman in the seventh round.

His first overseas opponent was a 37-fight veteran, Ivy Brown from the United States. Crous stopped him in the eighth round.

He won the SA light-heavyweight title when he outpointed Doug Lumley over 12 rounds in Cape Town on November 2 1981.

After the bout Rene du Preez wrote in SA Boxing World: that “a workmanlike performance by Piet Crous gave him a comfortable points win and the South African light-heavyweight crown … He was a clear and worthy winner over 12 interesting rounds.”

His first title defence, against Martin Barnard on February 6 1982 at the Rand Stadium in Johannesburg, was declared a technical draw after five rounds when a thunderstorm washed out the tournament.

During the next two years Crous continued his winning streak, beating Opperman and Tukane in defence of his title. In 1983 he stopped Theunis Kok, American Charles Henderson and two Argentinians, Pedro Cesar Duarte and Victor Robledo. He also beat Solomon Zuma in a tough fight in Durban to retain his national title.

Crous met Zuma again three months later; in Johannesburg. It was another toe-toe affair, but the champion held the edge throughout and won on a tenth-round knockout.

After a fourth-round stoppage of Jose Seys from Belgium, Crous was included on the WBA rankings list and scheduled to challenge Puerto Rican Ossie Occasio for the organisation’s cruiserweight title.

They met at Sun City in what was then known as Bophuthatswana on December 1 1994 – the same night Gerrie Coetzee lost his WBA heavyweight belt to Greg Page.

A well-conditioned Crous suffered a badly cut eye but showed courage as he outboxed Ocasio over 15 rounds to claim the title. He was named Boxer of the Year for 1984 at the annual King Korn / SA Boxing World awards.

In his first defence, at the Sun City Superbowl on March 30 1985, Crous went for a quick knockout against American Randy Stevens. It came off and he won after 2 minutes 22 seconds of the third round – but not before he was put on the canvas by a wild right to the head early in the round.

Crous then joined his former amateur trainer, Naas Botes, before the second defence of his belt – against Muhammad Qawi at Sun City on July 27 1985.

A rather apprehensive-looking Crous went into the ring with the intimidating Qawi, who was previously known as Dwight Braxton. They fought at a slow pace and Crous, showing a lack of mobility, was caught with numerous right hands to the head.

There was little between them going into the ninth round when Crous was caught with a big right hand to the head. It sent him reeling against the ropes and he looked as if he was going down, but he remained on his feet until the bell.

The champion still appeared to be in a fog as he came out for the tenth round but somehow he survived. However, Qawi then launched a vicious assault and dropped Crous with a barrage of punches for an eight count in the 11th round.

Soon afterwards Crous went down again remained in a kneeling position as referee Enzo Moran, from Venezuela, counted him out, 1 minute 47 seconds into the round.

Crous was never the same boxer again, even though he beat Colombian Thomas Polo, Hannes van der Bergh and former SA light-heavyweight champion Sakkie Enslin.

At the time he was still ranked No 4 by the WBA and hoping for another crack at the title. While he waited, he agreed to take on big-punching Freddy Rafferty, who had a record of 14-6-2, including 11 shortcut wins, at the time.

Rafferty, whose name used to be Freddy Horn, knocked him out in the seventh round. A month later Crous announced his retirement, finishing with a creditable record of 26 wins, 21 inside the distance, two defeats and two draws