the champ is here

Bongani Magasela

Bongani Magasela

Champions have something special that cannot be seen with the naked eye or touched.

One of those many paragons is boxing's living legend Muhammad Ali (born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jnr on January 17 1942).

The son of Cassius Clay Snr, who painted billboards and signs for a living, gave this fistic game a face-lift, forced those who hated it to appreciate its artistry and turned the sport into a multimillion rand industry.

Ali, a gold medallist in the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, won battles inside the ring, and to date remains the only man to have won the linear heavyweight championship three times.

He refused three times to step forward at the call of his name when he appeared for his scheduled induction into the US armed forces on April 28 1967 in Houston.

Ali was charged with committing a felony, an offence punishable by five years in prison and a fine of $10000 - once more, Ali refused to budge.

As a result the New York State Athletic Commission suspended his boxing licence and stripped him of his title. At the trial two months later, the jury, after only 21 minutes of deliberation, found Ali guilty.

A maximum sentence was imposed. After a court of appeals upheld the conviction, the case went to the US Supreme Court.

During this time, people turned against the war in Vietnam, and support for Ali grew. He came to be respected as a hero and athlete who stood up for his principles.

He was allowed to fight again in 1970. Ali, floating like a bee and stinging like a butterfly, reclaimed the lost glory, more fame and fortune.

Here in South Africa there is Cassius Ponani Baloyi from Giyani in Limpopo who has travelled the fistic route with huge success.

A son of Eric Baloyi, Cassius has made history with his fists. He is the only fighter in South Africa to win six world belts in three different weight divisions.

Last week he dazzlingly strolled into the real money league after his first defence of the IBF junior lightweight belt - a third round stoppage of Argentinian Javier Alvarez.

Baloyi's stablemate Malcolm Klassen is the mandatory challenger.

Sooner or later they will be compelled to a showdown, but Baloyi wants to be involved in a unification fight.

"I don't intend to vacate my title. I fought hard for it. I lost it to Gary St Clair and I had to fight two eliminators to qualify to fight for it again," he said.

"Maybe we can come to an agreement if I was to be offered a seven-figure pay [cheque] to step aside and allow Klassen to fight.

"Other than that I will not throw away bread for my kids. It's not that I want to fight Malcolm, but if I have to fight him then I will do so."

But their trainer Nick Durandt, said such a shootout will not happen, "for as long as I am their trainer".

Baloyi commands huge respect back home in Limpopo, not so much in Gauteng, and he is not sure why.

"It could be because I fight on SuperSport, which not everybody has access to," said the soft-spoken married father of three (two girls and a boy) who lost his mother way back in 1983.

He did not mince his words when responding to a question related to his financial rewards.

"I am making money and enjoying myself as a fighter because I do not want to come back once I quit."

That is the mark of a champion.