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Baloyi vs Klassen by Pete Moscardi

The remote town of Mafeking, located in South Africa’s North-West Province, has a notable historical background. For this was the site of the famous Siege of Mafikeng in which Lord Baden-Powell and his small and outnumbered garrison defended the town for 217 days, from October 1899 to May 1900, against the onslaught of the Boer forces, making it one of the most significant events of the
Anglo-Boer war.

History was remade in the town on 18 April 2009 with an event which took place in a boxing ring and which featured Cassius Baloyi defending his IBF super-featherweight title against Malcolm Klassen. Such was the sheer ferocity of this fight that it could well be described as “The Siege in Mafikeng”. It also contained an historical aspect in that both Baloyi and Klassen are from the same stable, and both are managed by Nick Durandt. This fight marked the first time in South African boxing history that two stablemates have fought for a world title.

In a brutal and no quarters asked or given battle, Baloyi finally succumbed to the sustained two-fisted onslaught of the dervish-like attacks of Malcolm Klassen, surrendering his title on a seventh round stoppage. The word savagery comes to mind as an appropriate metaphor for this epic clash staged by Branco Sports Productions at the University of the North West’s Sports Centre. But there were many other elements as well. Pride and passion, ferocity and fortitude, and hope and valour were all ingredients which went into making this event not only a fore-runner for Fight of the Year – but also for Fight of the Decade.

Baloyi, who was rescued by American referee, Sam Williams who compassionately ended the action at 2.42 into the seventh when Cassius was reeling and defenceless, sustained his first stoppage loss in a career which commenced in January 1994 and which stood at 36 (19) -3 -1 going in. Klassen’s victory improves
his record to 24-4-2.

There was an atmosphere of tangible expectancy as the protagonists entered the ring and the frenetic crowd support for each fighter was deafening. The tension was explosive as the female ring announcer made her way through the drawn out introductions and the national anthem was sung. Baloyi had his longtime mentor, Nick Durandt, in his corner, while Klassen was looked after by Gert Strydom - who had been commissioned by Durandt to train him for this encounter. Ironically it was Strydom who trained Klassen prior to his defection to Durandt from the Manny Fernandes stable.

The first round started at a furious pace. Klassen served notice of his intentions
by going right after Baloyi with both hands to the body. The champion appeared not to have any defence against the bombs that exploded on his rib cage and even the deafening noise of the crowd failed to drown out the thwack, thwack, thwack of Klassen’s combinations thudding into Baloyi’s body. But if Malcolm thought that Baloyi’s strategy was going to be to get on his bike and use his marked reach advantage to make this a distance fight he was going to be surprised. Baloyi anchored his feet and stood right in front of Klassen, willing to trade punch for punch. What occurred in the dying seconds of the first could have had an instrumental effect on the eventual outcome of the fight.

With the fighters trading punches near a neutral corner, Klassen penetrated Baloyi’s defences with a staggering right uppercut which smashed into Baloyi’s jaw. A follow-up left hook to the chin unhinged the champion whose eyes were
suddenly not focusing. Baloyi was basically out on his feet, and he grabbed the
top rope with a glove to keep himself upright. As Klassen moved in for the kill the
bell came to Baloyi’s rescue. Baloyi, in a dazed state, started to walk in the direction of the neutral corner before being shepherded back to his corner by referee Williams. Baloyi had survived a crisis, but Klassen had stamped his
authority on the fight – and in his mind. Baloyi came back like a champion in the
second, forcing the pace to have Malcolm on the back foot. Some raking uppercuts
from Cassius found their target but Klassen showed his toughness by fighting back. Still, it was Baloyi’s round.

The pace over the next three rounds was almost impossible to believe as both
took turns in pounding each other. Klassen was still body hunting, but mixing
up his punches intelligently to also slam home solid combinations to Baloyi’s head. But Baloyi’s pride and his champion’s heart – not to mention his considerable
fighting ability – kept him right in the fight. Solid combinations were landing on Klassen’s head and jaw, but somehow one got the impression that it was Klassen’s punches which were doing the greater damage.

The pattern of this heart-stopping fight turned quite suddenly in the sixth when,
in a definitive moment, Baloyi grew old in front of his rampaging young challenger.
The champion’s eyes had an almost resigned look in them as he was unable to prevent the non-stop barrage of punches that were threading their way through his now porous defences. His arms hung by his sides, his legs looked leaden and his mouth was open as he sucked in air. Klassen’s animal instincts picked this up in a flash and he increased the tempo of his assault. But Baloyi dug deep and snarled defiance as he lashed back at an advancing Klassen with his own combinations. But the point had come when one knew the fight had turned and that Baloyi was now running on empty.

A four-punch combination to Baloyi’s jaw early in the seventh confirmed that the fight was, to all extents, over and done for Cassius. The punches made Baloyi take four tottering steps backwards and, for the second time in the fight, his focus was gone. Klassen pounced, and a furious and non-stop barrage of punches crashed into the now unprotected face and head of the champion. The ferocity of the assault had Baloyi reeling around the ring and Sam Williams made the perfectly timed stoppage when Baloyi’s upper torso was halfway through the ropes and he was staring blankly out at the crowd. While Klassen understandably showed no compassion during the fight, he immediately went over to his battered opponent to console him after the victory.

Muruti Mthalane

Moruti Mthalane looked world class when retaining his South African flyweight
title on a third round KO over his outgunned and outclassed challenger, Lehlohonolo Ramagole in the main support to the Baloyi v Klassen clash. But in reality this was a match that should never have received sanction from Boxing South Africa as
Ramagole, whose record going in was a mere 7-1-0, was a novice compared to
the 23-2-2 record of the fight-hardened Mthalane.

This was Mthalane’s first outing since his unsuccessful challenge for Nonito
Donaire’s IBF title in Las Vegas back in November last year when he was unlucky to be ruled out with a cut eye in the sixth round.

Mthalane went about his task coldly and clinically. Ramagole, to his credit, had come to fight and the challenger came out in the first working behind a snappy left jab. Ramagole put some neat combinations together in the first, but it was clear Moruti was just having a look at the opposition before going to work. Mthalane took over from the second, which was an all-action round with Ramagole mounting a courageous but futile challenge. Mthalane’s combinations were landing solidly on
Lehlo’s face and head and the challengers face was getting busted up. Moruti came out for the third intent on closing the fight and Ramagole, bleeding from the
nose and mouth, was now getting caught repeatedly. A wicked leftright combination to the jaw had Ramagole over and he was counted out in 2.26. This fight would have done little to further Mthalane’s status as a world class fighter,
and his overmatched opponent now has to get over a one-sided battering.

In a fight for the ABU super flyweight title, defending champion, Lesley Sekotswe from Botswana was made to look amateurish by his cagey South African challenger, Nkosana Sobethu before a stunning right to the jaw, followed up by a left-right
combination, put Sobethu down for the count at 2.17 into the sixth.

The southpaw challenger came into this fight with a 15-8-2 record which, in terms of pure experience, gave him the edge over the champion who was just 8-0 going in. The experience gap became evident from the start when the aggressive champion was repeatedly made to miss with 90 percent of his punches which Sobethu slipped or ducked under. The challenger was very much in a competitive
fight for all the completed five rounds and his cagey evasive tactics, and good countering, gave the champion more problems than he wanted. There was no indication that this fight was destined for an early finish until Sekotswe lowered the boom with the devastating combination which sent Sobethu crashing over onto his back.