Cassius “The Hitman” Baloyi (31–1, 16 KOs) will be looking to claim a world title in a fourth weight division on August 31 when he faces the rising hot talent Isaac “Angel” Hlatswayo for the vacant IBO lightweight crown. Baloyi has previously held the WBU junior feather and featherweight crowns, as well as the IBO junior lightweight title, with some distinction.
Baloyi has contested sixteen world title bouts, and while all have been for lesser regarded sanctioning bodies, he holds the scalps of the likes of Frank Toledo, Steve Robinson, Hector Lizarraga and Mbulelo Botile. His record also shows two victories over Lehlohonolo Ledwaba, but the first was a blatant robbery and the second, while not as convincing, was also hard to swallow.
Baloyi is undoubtedly a great talent, but he’s been involved in more battles of attrition than most boxers are exposed to and one wonders if he will be able to stand up to another one. This will be Baloyi’s first outing into the lightweight division and he will be facing a bigger and stronger man than he has ever faced before.
Baloyi fought with a broken jaw in a title defense against Anton Gilmore, received a battering in defeating Steve Robinson, and took an inhumane pounding from Phillip Ndou in the only loss of his career. In all of these bouts Baloyi showed an incredible propensity to soak up punishment, maintain his composure, and to fight on instinct and heart alone.
In between the above bouts, Baloyi also had the added stress of being shot in the thigh during a carjacking. While I firmly believe Baloyi at his best absorbed the beating of anybody the sport could throw his way and is still a cut above most contenders, for me he has been fighting on borrowed time and I cannot help be concerned for his well being every time he enters the ring.
It’s a tragedy that this man was not given the opportunity to fight for the more noted sanctioning bodies and that he was overlooked as an opponent for Naseem Hamed when the Prince was in his prime. Baloyi certainly would have rattled his cage with his then-razor-sharp jabs and pounding uppercuts. He still boasts a solid defense, but while it was virtually impenetrable a few years back, cracks have since appeared.
The move up in weight against a punishing fighter like Hlatswayo, who held the national lightweight crown and holds wins over the national junior welterweight as well as the WBF junior welterweight world champions is a bold one – perhaps born more out of desperation to get a fight than the desire to move up yet another weight division. Hlatswayo also holds a win over Phillip Ndou, the only man to officially defeat Baloyi, having said that it was in Ndou’s last fight, following his drubbing at the hands of Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Ndou looked small and rather meek alongside Hlatswayo, and Baloyi looked the smaller man against Ndou. While Baloyi is undoubtedly the more skillful craftsman of the two, Hlatswayo is a rough and ready fighter who has a tendency of punishing his opponents into submission. He also has an incredible hard head and absorbs big blows as if they are powder-puffs.
If Baloyi can avoid roughing it in the trenches and just sticks and moves like he did in the second fight against Ledwaba, then he could eke out another points win. If he gets down and dirty, he could face his first stoppage and if that happens I don’t think we’ll ever see him in the ring again. If one withdraws the emotions I carry with this boxer, it’s exciting stuff and a fight that’s sure to deliver some incredible action.
On a lighter note, former three time world champion Dingaan Thobela was seen knocking out WWP heavyweight world wrestling champion Tornado, in a scuffle last Saturday. This has ignited talks of a boxer vs. wrestler match in the near future and Thobela was seen knocking on the door of Cassius Baloyi’s trainer Nic Durandt to get him back into shape. Durandt now also runs an executive gym in which the public gets the opportunity to do train under the guidance of the likes of Phillip “The Time Bomb” Ndou.
Beyond the wrestling, there’s also been some interest shown by both the camps of Thobela and another veteran, Mpush Makambi, who currently holds the WBA Pan African super middleweight title, to get the two into the ring against each other. Makambi is a former IBO middleweight world champion and while he’s a year older than Thobela, he is a far more conditioned and determined fighter.
In other local news, the hard-hitting Joseph “Smoking Joe” Makaringe (27–2, 22 KOs) gets the long overdue opportunity of fighting for a credible title when he challenges Ghanian southpaw Philip Kotey (17–1, 11 KOs) for the vacant WBC International welterweight title on August 26 at Graceland Casino in Secunda.
Makaringe, currently ranked #12 by the WBO, #14 by the WBC and #15 by the WBA, is a good worker with a devastating punch. He’s not looked on form in recent outings, however, and one wonders if this opportunity is not a case of too little too late. Makaringe held the national welterweight title with great distinction and in his prime looked unstoppable. He has never been comfortable with southpaws, so this fight is going to be a difficult one for him to win. With both boxers carrying heavy armor it’s likely that this one won’t go the distance. But it is encouraging that he’s being matched against a credible opponent for this title, as opposed to the usual cannon fodder given opportunities for titles of these sorts. It’s good for the game if all titles can carry a modicum of credibility.
For those who missed the result, national bantamweight champion Simphiwe Vetyeka (13-0, 6 KOs) put on an overpowering performance to stop Sakhumzi Bongwana in seven rounds in the second defense of his title earlier in the month. Although the champion dropped the challenger in the second round, he made the common mistake of trying to finish him with one big blow instead of choosing his punches. Bongwana was able to survive the storm and fought back bravely until he was again dropped in the seventh. He did rise on the count of eight, but after receiving another pummeling the referee stopped the contest.
Who will win #HOPKINSKOVALEV