Klassen hits brick wall in US

MALCOLM "The Stone" Klassen's hopes of superstardom were stonewalled yesterday morning.

MALCOLM "The Stone" Klassen's hopes of superstardom were stonewalled yesterday morning.

His passport to mega riches, the IBF junior lightweight crown, was take away when he lost to Robert "The Ghost" Guerrero.

The fight was Klassen's first defence of the the belt he won in April. The failed defence was televised live around the world by HBO, America's cable network. SABC also broadcast it live from 4am.

The fight was presented jointly by Golden Boy Productions and Branco Sports Promotions at Honda Centre, Houston, Texas.

Victory would have secured this Toekomrus, West Rand-based fighter the combination to the safe but Klassen, who overwhelmed Cassius "Hitman" Baloyi with speed and power before eventually stopping him in the seventh round for the title in April, just refused to perform against Guerrero.

There were fears among local pundits that Klassen's promoter, Branco Milenkovic, and trainer Nick Durandt threw their charge into the lion's den in defending in the US.

But Klassen should have dealt easily with Guerrero.

Guerrero showed nothing special, except for hand speed, a slick jab and hunger and determination to win his second IBF belt in a higher division. He gave up his featherweight belt to challenge Klassen.

Guerrero built a nice lead through the first four rounds, playing it careful, keeping Klassen away with right jabs. A pivotal point came in the sixth round when Guerrero's accuracy dislodged Klassen's mouth piece - and Klassen's confidence wilted. They clashed heads accidentally in seven and Guerrero was cut badly above his left eye but still Klassen did not capitalise. By the ninth round Guerrero was running away with the title.

The stage was just too big for Klassen who fought in front of a reported 10000-strong crowd. He is used to fighting in front of less than 1000 fans. The scorecards read 117-111, 116-113 and 116-112.