By Mesuli Zifo
FORMER two-time IBF junior lightweight champion Malcolm Klassen has endured trials and tribulations in boxing so much that he has vowed never to take things for granted again after being forced into two years of inactivity.
The 29-year-old will take on Mexican Damiel Limeli in a vacant WBF 130 lbs pound clash at Montecasino in Johannesburg, South Africa on Saturday.
The clash will mark the first time Klassen gets back to action since surrendering his IBF crown to American Robert Guererro on August 22, 2009.
Whilst Guerrero has engaged in four fights since his victory, Klassen has been kicking his heels at home owing to a bitter contractual promotional dispute with his former promoter Branco Milenkovic, that rendered him in limbo since.
And if you factor in Guerrero’s own personal problems when he had to take some time off from the ring to attend to his sick wife before resuming his career in the 135 lbs where he has since captured interim titles after his win over Michael Katsidis, you can understand the amount of frustrations Klassen has endured in the wilderness.
“That is the period of my career I would wish to forget,” Klassen said.
“I would not wish any other fighter to go through what I went through but I am only glad that I would be able to get back to the ring and I do what I love.”
Klassen (24-5-3, 15 KOs) was caught up in the crossfire of the promotional rivalry between two top South African promoters Branco Milenkovic and Rodney Berman when Berman was ready to let him fight for the WBC silver title against Filipino Vinvin Rufino last November.
With the fight already approved by the WBC, Klassen found himself trapped in the contract he signed with Milenkovic who refused to release him until he had repaid some money he owed him.
Berman was forced to pull him out of the fight, leaving the fighter unable to earn an income to support his family.
In a desperate attempt to make money Klassen was forced to travel to Indonesia to accept an offer to help WBA featherweight champion Chris John in sparring sessions in his preparations for his title defence against compatriot Daud Yordan in April this year.
But Klassen alleged ill-treatment by the John camp and the reneging in agreement of the financial terms.
The issue was so serious it nearly spoiled the diplomatic relations between South African and Indonesian governments.
Although Klassen denied that he owed Milenkovic any money he eventually repaid him to free himself from the contract but by that time no promoter was prepared to work with him.
After hopping from one manager to the other in his quest to seek fights, he finally decided to reunite with Nick Durandt who convinced the new promotion company Showpony Promotions to include him in their Saturday five- WBF title- tournament headlined by a heavyweight title clash between Francois Botha and American Michael Grant.
Just when Klassen thought that his demons were behind him and excited for finally getting back into the ring, another disaster struck when his original opponent Rafael Guzman was killed in hail of bullets in his home in Guadalajara, Mexico.
“When I was informed of the news I just could not believe the bad luck following me but my management team assured me that I would get another opponent,” Klassen recalls.
Indeed Lomeli was secured and after the Mexican arrived in South Africa this week, Klassen is finally convinced that his long inactivity will come to an end.
“There is still so much that could happen between now and Saturday so I am holding my breath but so far things are running smoothly.”
And he is hoping that a victory will get his career back on track to pursue big money fights against other world champions in the 130 lbs.