Ilunga Makabu isn’t a name that has crossed over beyond the boxing world but it was one that took on new significance last November at the WBC convention.

Boxing’s biggest attraction, reigning super middleweight champion Saul Alvarez, opened up the possibility of challenging the WBC cruiserweight titlist for a belt in Alvarez’s fifth weight class. The chatter has since quieted down and the fight is unlikely at the moment. 

It doesn’t mean it can’t be revisited. 

In order for that to be possible, Ilunga has to win Saturday night in a rematch versus Thabiso Mchunu. Officially, Makabu did just that. Unofficially, there was room for debate. As reported by Jake Donovan, when it came to victory for Makabu:

At no point was that guaranteed, as evident by his sweating out a widely disputed split decision verdict.

Mchunu took a similar approach to the rematch as was the case in their May 2015 encounter in Durban, South Africa. The veteran contender from Cato Ridge, South Africa knew his role as the boxer in the equation, using his jab to disallow Makabu to plant his feet long enough to throw or land anything of consequence.

Mchunu’s better stamina and game plan weren’t enough for the ringside eyes that matter and Makabu moves on. Will he land the richest prize in boxing?

Futures: Makabu’s debatable win might oddly work in his favor if Alvarez elects to look up the scale after all. The shorter Mchunu’s success with the jab and at close range could be alluring. Styles and chances to win might mean less than income possibility. Makabu as a cruiserweight titlist would have some novelty to sell against Alvarez but it likely wouldn’t bring the total receipts more known commodities like Jermall Charlo or Gennadiy Golovkin, both also recently mentioned seriously as foes, would bring. Makabu won Saturday and if he keeps winning he may yet get his chance. 

As evidenced this weekend, continuing to win is never that easy. 

Conceicao Rebounds

While Makabu won what was, on paper, the most significant fight of the weekend, it was unlikely to have been the most seen in the States. That honor went to ESPN’s broadcast with three-time Brazilian Olympian Robson Conceicao rebounding from his first loss to hand Xavier Martinez a first loss of his own. It was an excellent performance for the 33-year old after giving Oscar Valdez a hard night last September. Martinez lost almost every round of the fight and saw a narrow window for victory opened too late to take advantage of it when he stunned Conceicao late in the third. What can the victor hope for as 2022 progresses. 

Futures: Conceicao stated after the fight he’d like to see Valdez again and the fight would certainly be possible if Valdez wins a pending unification clash with Shakur Stevenson. Conceicao’s performance against Valdez, and win Saturday, make him a viable challenger no matter who wins that fight. Martinez, only 24, will have time to try again and can yet emerge as a serious contender. He’ll have more chances and can at the least make good television with the right matchmaking.  

Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, a member of the International Boxing Research Organization, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America.