The International Boxing Organization sent out a clear message on Saturday night that if anybody wants to defeat their junior lightweight world champion, Cassius Baloyi, they will have to knock him out. It matters little what happens in the ring. All Baloyi needs to do is go the distance and the judges will ensure that he retains his title.
Billed as “The Rematch,” most at ringside at Carnival City in Brakpan hoped that the gross injustice which was committed last November against Lehlohonolo Ledwaba – when he was raped in the worst and most blatant misjudging I have ever seen – would be corrected. Unfortunately for the credibility of boxing in South Africa, justice did not prevail, as Ledwaba was robbed again.
A blind man could have seen that Ledwaba had won the fight, yet the official decision went against him again. Of course had the decision gone against Baloyi, the IBO would have had to acknowledge that their judges had perhaps made a mistake in the first fight. Something they have not had the decency to do. Personally I believe Ledwaba should never have agreed to this second “fight,” because he is better than that, but a man has to eat as well. With a scarcity of good promoters, I shudder to use those two words together, but you get my drift: in the country opportunities are limited and boxers are by and large forced to accept whatever fights they are offered.
There were 4 to 5 thousand people in attendance, the majority complimentary tickets, as fight fans are no longer prepared to pay to be screwed by incessant controversial decisions and slanted matches. Saturday’s result is sure to put off even those who attend for free from showing their support by showing up. One wonders how many more nails will need to be hammered into the coffin before the sport will be taken off the critical list in South Africa permanently and a hammer is replaced by a shovel.
The Ledwaba–Baloyi result was not the only controversial decision of the evening either. Earlier on, Warren Joubert was extremely lucky to get a draw over four rounds in a junior lightweight match against Mlungisi Khoza. In a cruiserweight clash between two men making their debuts, the referee called off the fight between Rudy Brewer and Elijah Kwenaeetile from Botswana in the fourth round. Against the flow of the fight, Kwenaetile was caught with one punch which put him down. The referee stepped in said he was out, without giving him a count. He had not even lowered his hands, when Kwenaetile was up on his feet and completely clear-eyed and focused. I was sitting one meter away from the action so can say without any doubt the Botswana boxer was robbed. Up until then, except for a brief spell in the second round, he had been giving Brewer a boxing lesson.
These tainted results gave me the feeling that Ledwaba would have to knock Baloyi out if he was to win. Unfortunately I was proven right.
It must be remembered that Ledwaba is pretty much a free agent and does not enjoy the close relations with the major players in local boxing, which Baloyi does. Looking at the fight now, both boxers received a strong welcome on entering the ring, although some boos could be heard when Baloyi entered the ring and was introduced.
Round one was relatively uneventful, as both boxers used it to feel each other out and to find their distance. Baloyi threw more punches, but missed with almost every one of them. Ledwaba’s were on target and Baloyi looked extremely uncomfortable every time they landed, even when it was on his arms. The second round Baloyi continued to throw and miss, while Ledwaba picked up the pace and landed some telling body shots. On the odd occasion when Baloyi landed, it was clear his blows were like powder-puffs, as he could still not measure his distance correctly. Baloyi was also extremely cautious and it was evident that “Hands of Stone” was hurting him whenever he landed.
The third round was pretty even. Baloyi started getting his aim in, but still battled to land cleanly. Ledwaba continued to land effective body and head shots. In the fourth and fifth rounds Ledwaba pressed forward as he had done the whole fight and Baloyi continued to run away and fight off the back foot. Ledwaba turned up the heat in these two rounds and backed Baloyi into the ropes with a strong body attack. He also rocked Baloyi’s head back in both these rounds. These were very strong rounds for Ledwaba and it looked as though he could become the first man to score a knockout against the cast-iron jawed Baloyi.
In the sixth Ledwaba eased off a bit and Baloyi gained some confidence as he started to find his mark. Ledwaba still rallied, however, and continued to dictate from the center of the ring. The round was fairly even with Ledwaba landing more effective punches. Round seven was Baloyi’s strongest round of the fight and the only one I scored in his favor. His timing was on and he landed some good combinations. Baloyi’s brief attempt of getting involved in the fight eased off as Ledwaba caught him with a big uppercut in eighth. Feeling the power of the former IBF and WBU junior featherweight and WBU featherweight world champion, Baloyi got back on his bicycle and lost the round as he tried to stay away from the thunderous punches coming his way.
In round nine both Baloyi and Ledwaba landed good blows and at times it looked as though Baloyi was going to make a fight of it. Round ten was much like the first round with nary a blow being thrown. Ledwaba was the hunter and Baloyi the hunted, moving and just trying to stay out of harm’s way. Of the few punches that were thrown, Ledwaba landed more. At the start of the eleventh round Ledwaba caught Baloyi with solid rights to the jaw on two occasions. This again prompted Baloyi to use survival tactics and run from the better man. Ringsiders started jeering and booing that Baloyi must fight and not run, but this helped little as the paper champion was only intent on staying on his feet till the end of the fight.
Considering that Ledwaba was the aggressor for the entire fight and landed more clean and solid blows going into the last round, one would have expected Baloyi to try and take the fight to the challenger. Instead he ran for the entire three minutes. Ledwaba continued to stalk his man, trying to cut off the corners. Ledwaba managed to land a few shots, but Baloyi just kept running and refused to fight. In the end there seemed no doubt who was victorious. While it was not as impressive or overwhelming win as in their first fight, Ledwaba had won the fight again.
This time when the joke of a decision was rendered, those at ringside where stunned. How could it happen again? There would not be a grandstanding of boos this time, merely the shaking of heads in silent submission. “What’s the point? They’ll just do what they want to do anyway. I can’t believe they did it to him again,” people said as they walked out while interviews with the Baloyi team were held over the loudspeakers. Nobody cared to hear what they had to say I know I didn’t. “He was running like a thief in the night,” said Ledwaba afterwards. Ironic words considering he had been robbed twice against the same opponent. In the main support bout a grossly out of condition Anton Nel lost his SA national heavyweight title to Osborne Machimana on a fifth round KO. Nel was expected to hang up his gloves after this fight, but the loss inspired him to say he would be back.