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Shy Guy a credit to SA boxing

After 46 fights in 18 years the Shy Guy has retired, leaving the ring as one of SA boxing’s finest servants.

Cassius Baloyi held six versions of world titles during his distinguished career; the only South African to fight his way to such a collection.

The man after whom he was named, would have been proud of Ponani Cassius Baloyi’s achievements.

Born at Malumelele in Limpopo on November 5 1974, he was one of nine children. His father idolised Muhammad Ali, whose named used to be Cassius Clay, hence the name he gave the boy.

The proud father introduced the lad to boxing by buying a punch bag, which he hung in a tree in their back garden. That is where young Cassius learnt the basics of boxing.

It was the start of a career that came to an end after Baloyi’s recent points defeat to Malcolm Klassen. After the bout at Nasrec, near Johannesburg, on October 13, he announced from the ring that he was retiring.

Known as Mr Shy Guy and The Hitman – a misnomer, because he was not a big puncher – Baloyi rose through the ranks to reach the status as one of the finest SA fighters in the modern era.

He won his first amateur championship in 1989 and in 1993 won the SA senior bantamweight title.

Tragically, his entry for the 1992 Olympics was submitted too late and he missed the Barcelona Games.

He made his professional debut on May 13, 1994, winning on points over four rounds against Isaac Skosana. In only his third fight he beat Joe Castillo, a Mexican, in Las Vegas.

He remained undefeated in his next ten fights before beating Frankie Toledo in St Petersburg, Florida, to win the WBU super-bantamweight title on November 15, 1996.

Baloyi retained the belt on a disputed decision against Anton Gilmore and made two more successful defences before relinquishing the title in February 1998.

On April 24, 1998 he was back in the United States, beating Sergio Liendo for the WBU featherweight belt to win his second “world” title.

He retained the title in seven defences, including victories over fighters of the quality of Brian Carr and Steve Robinson.

On November 3, 2001 Baloyi was matched with his countryman Phillip Ndou for what the WBU termed a catchweight title, with a limit of 58.15 kg. Then, according to their rules, the organisation stripped Baloyi of his featherweight belt because he was fighting for another title!

Baloyi later said the bout against Ndou was his toughest and most difficult fight. It took place seven months after he was shot in the leg in an attempted hijacking. He still carried the mental and physical scars.

It was also the only time in his career that Baloyi fought a taller opponent. It turned into a toe-toe encounter and the bigger Ndou won well over twelve rounds.

Baloyi was back at his best in 2002, stopping Tiger Ari from Argentina in the sixth round to win the vacant IBO junior lightweight title.

In his first defence, against former IBF bantamweight and featherweight champion Mbulelo Botile, he was in outstanding form, winning on a stoppage in the eleventh round.

After a successful defence against Lehlohonolo Ledwaba, a former WBU bantamweight and IBF junior featherweight champion, Baloyi moved up to lightweight to take on Isaac Hlatshawayo for the IBO belt. He lost on points.

He won his fourth “world’ title on May 31, 2006 when he stopped 80-fight veteran Manuel Medina of Mexico in the eleventh round. It earned him the vacant IBF junior lightweight title and he also retained the IBO lightweight title.

However, he lost both belts to Gairy St Clair of Guyana in his first defence.

On February 3, 2007 he won the IBO junior lightweight title that had been vacated by St Clair when he stopped Nazereno Ruiz of Argentina in the third round to win his fifth belt.

Just over a year later, in Mahikeng on April 12, he regained the IBF junior lightweight belt in a close fight with Mzonke Fana, who had taken the title from Malcolm Klassen, who had won it from St Clair.

It was Baloyi’s sixth “world” title and he was justly named SA Boxer of the Year for 2008.

After a successful defence against Javier Osvaldo Alvarez of Argentina, Baloyi lost the belt to Klassen on a seventh-round technical knockout. It was his first defeat inside the distance.

His last victory was when he beat Roberto Arrieta of Argentina on points in an IBF junior lightweight eliminator on October 30, 2009.

His skills were clearly deteriorating and he lost his next three fights – against Fana, Argenis Mendez and former WBA lightweight champion Paulos Moses – before a final loss in a return fight with Klassen.

Baloyi will not be lost to boxing. He has established the Cassius Baloyi Boxing Academy in Alexander Township near Johannesburg. It is affiliated to the SA National Boxing Organisation and the Johannesburg Amateur Boxing Organisation.

The Shy Guy, who finished with a record of 37-8-1, including 19 knockouts, is married to Nomaqci and they have three children.

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