On January 29th at the Packard Music Hall in Ohio, World Boxing Council cruiserweight champion Junior Illunga Makabu (28-2, 25KO`s) defends his belt against WBC Silver Champion Thabiso Mchunu (23-5, 13KO`s).
Both are southpaws and this will be their second fight. In 2015 they clashed in a WBC eliminator. Thabiso dominated the first six rounds. Illunga fought back to KO him in the eleventh round of a thrilling encounter. Now they`re poised to give us a second helping.
At the WBC Convention in November, manager Eddy Reynoso gained the permission of the Board of Governors for Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez to seek a fifth divisional title, by fighting Makabu. But before this could even be discussed, Illunga has to fight against number one challenger Mchunu.
Thabiso and team flew to Mexico to get visas from the US Embassy. They`re training with exacting intensity, applying the finishing touches to long preparations to be strong for the big fight night. On a chilly early morning they arrive at the White Collar Gym, on Palmas Avenue, ready to really work and sweat.
First some skipping to limber up. Then sessions on the pads and the sticks with trainer Sean Smith. Shadow sparring against lanky long armed welterweight Thulani Mbenge (16-1, 14KO`s).
After more than two and a half hours of work, Thabiso looked to be in top physical condition.
“I'm feeling good. I`m ready for this and I've got to make sure I get this one. I'm fighting for a WBC title and it's every boxer's dream," Mchunu said.
“When I first fought him I was young and cocky. He was so easy to hit, I went for the knockout and gassed. Now I`m more mature and I`m the smarter boxer. So, I`m going to do what I do best, which is to stalk him and outbox him. I`m convinced we`ve done everything to be able to win.”
Mchunu's trainer, Smith, feels confident that his boxer will come away with the WBC title.
“This fight has been in the making for almost six months, so we`re putting the hammer down. We`ve been in and out of training camp for three to four months. I`m asking more of Thabiso and myself. We know what`s on the line. everything is more detailed and a little more intense. He has the opportunity to do great things," Smith said.
“I believe in Thabiso. We`ve been together eleven years on this journey. It`s an amazing story. It`s a string of ups and downs and we`re going to achieve a massive up! Hats off to Makabu. He`s a slow starter. Then he relies on his gas tank and he forces the pace. Now we know, and it`s a different mindset as well as a different approach. Thabiso is smart and he can make a tough fight very easy. The boxer always wins.
“We will be the matador who beats the bull. We`re going to slay the dragon on January 29th!”