Photos by Sumio Yamada
CASSIUS BALOYI vs MALCOLM KLASSEN
South African rivals meet in an excellent fight on Saturday when the tall, rangy Cassius Baloyi defends his IBF junior lightweight title against Malcolm Klassen.
The fight is unusual in that both men are managed and trained by the knowledgeable and colourful Nick Durandt, who will be working in Baloyis corner simply because he has had a longer association with the defending champion.
The two fighters have never sparred with each other, Durandt said, because they always knew that one day they might meet in the ring. Durandt has told the South African media that he didnt really want the fight to happen, but when Klassen became the mandatory IBF challenger there was no option but for Baloyi to meet his stablemate or relinquish the title.
Baloyi is considered the favourite because of his greater experience. He has fought at a high level for a number of years, including contests in Britain and the U.S., and he is an old hand at boxing in championship 12-rounders. He has the height and reach advantages. Klassen, though, is seven years younger than the 34-year-old Baloyi.
Both men have stopped Manuel Medina and outpointed Gairy St. Clair, so there is little to choose between them there.
Baloyi avenged a previous defeat when he soundly outpointed St. Clair in November 2007.
Klassen knocked out Medina in two rounds whereas Baloyi had a difficult fight with the Mexican veteran before winning in the 11th round. However, Medina, at the end of his career, looked a shell of his former self when folding up against Klassen.
Where form favours Baloyi is that he defeated Mzonke Fana, whereas Fana outpointed Klassen.
Klassen is talented but he tired badly in the later rounds in his loss to Fana.
I make this clash of stablemates almost even money. Baloyi has had a long career but I don't think age and hard fights have caught up with him just yet. He had a gruelling struggle when he beat Fana last April but he came through, winning the early rounds and landing some impressive combinations near the end.
Klassen will surely be at his best on Saturday and I think he is going to push Baloyi hard. The fight looks likely to go the distance and it could be close at the finish, but I see Baloyi as slightly the better fighter and I take him to dig deep and eke out a points victory.