Ilunga ‘Junior’ Makabu made a conscious effort to simply win on Saturday with the promise of looking even better next time around.
A calculated approach by the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Makabu led to a twelve-round, split decision win over Thabiso Mchunu in their rematch this past Saturday. Makabu was fortunate to prevail in the second defense of his WBC cruiserweight title, overcoming a 115-113 card in favor of Mchunu to win by scores of 115-113 and 116-112 Saturday evening at W.D. Packard Music Hall in Warren, Ohio.
The fight came with the appeal of the winner rumored to face four-division titlist and pound-for-pound king Saul ‘Canelo ‘Alvarez (57-1-2, 39KOs). It remains doubtful that such a fight happens straightaway or even at all, though it didn’t discourage the reigning titlist from dreaming big.
“I already beat Thabiso the first time and did it again,” Makabu said after the fight. “He’s a counter puncher. I didn’t come for a knockout. I just came to box.”
“My next fight with Saul CA-NE-LO, I’m going to box and knock you out. Viva Mexico.”
Guadalajara’s Alvarez made history as the first-ever undisputed super middleweight champion in the three- or four-belt era, along with becoming the first Latino male boxer at any weight to accomplish the feat. Trainer and manager Eddy Reynoso sought a path for his star pupil to further etch his name in the record books as the first-ever Mexican boxer to win titles in five weight divisions.
A request was made by Reynoso during the annual WBC convention last November for Alvarez to go straight to Makabu (29-2, 25KOs) for a shot at the WBC cruiserweight title. The WBC honored the request, though it remains doubtful that Alvarez will follow through next if ever at all.
Either way, Makabu will find a way to move on with his career. The 34-year-old Congolese southpaw had to work hard to earn a repeat win over Mchunu (23-6, 13KOs), whom he stopped in the eleventh round of their first fight in May 2016. Saturday’s win was his tenth in a row and with the intention to add to his current good fortunes.
“This is our time for Congo,” insists Makabu. “We are number one in the world.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox