WBC Special Preview: Makabu vs Jack
By James Blears
Ilunga Junior Makabu (29-2, 25KO) defends his World Boxing Council cruiserweight title against Badou Jack (27-3-3, 16KO) at the Diriyah Arena, Saudi Arabia on Sunday February 26th, on the undercard of Jake Paul vs Tommy Fury.
Badou Johannes Gabriel Jack, originally from Sweden, has had a shorter journey to get there as he lives in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, while defending champion Ilunga, who was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, now resides in South Africa.
This fight is on the undercard of the Paul vs Fury grudge match, but it could provide its own fireworks.
Both Ilunga and Badou can punch and the fists of cruiserweights are clenched thunder. At 39, there are some mumblings that Badou is getting a little long in the tooth. But as a good friend and a former world champion recently confided to me, 'it's the boxer himself/herself, who knows in their heart, fiber and in their very being, when it's time to retire'. Badou has been a world champion at super middleweight and light heavyweight and, as such, he's fought the cream of the crop.
Few expected him to defeat then unbeaten WBC super-middleweight champion Anthony Direll in 2015. But he did, by convincing UD, saying: “I was in great shape and I believed in myself. All the talk doesn`t matter.”
His first defense was against Briton George Groves who he defeated via split decision. Then, a majority draw against Lucian Bute, which was changed to a disqualification win after Lucian tested positive for Ostamine, and a majority draw against IBF champion James DeGale, another Brit on his record.
Time for growth, with Badou winning the WBA light heavyweight against Welshman Nathan Cleverly by fifth round TKO. Nathan who suffered a broken nose, retired after this bout.
'JAck the Ripper' proved his mettle in a slugfest with WBC light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson. They fought to a majority draw with Adonis, successfully defending his Green and Gold Belt for the ninth time. Then Badou became 'Captain Courageous' losing a UD against Marcus Browne for the WBA Interim title. He suffered a horrendous vertical cut on his forehead, after an accidental clash of heads in the seventh, which poured cascades of blood thereafter, up to and after the 12th round. Badou insisted: “I'm a warrior. I never quit!” Then another loss by SD to WBA regular champion Jean Pascal.
Badou moved up to cruiserweight. He defeated some rather average fighters including Samuel Crossed by second round KO. His most recent fight was a SD win over Richard Rivera in which he didn`t shine.
The opportunity and occasion of becoming a world champion in three divisions, will provide inspiration and motivation to Badou Jack, who has said: “As long as you`ve got vision and determination, ain't nothing going to stop you reaching your goals, unless you let yourself get stopped.”
Standing squarely in Badou Jack's way is sturdy WBC cruiserweight champion Ilunga Junior Makabu. Ilunga, aged 35, has also been around for some time. His debut in 2008, was one year before Badou's pro start. Southpaw Ilunga has been champion since 2020.
Ilunga lost by TKO in his 2008 pro debut to Khayeni Hlungwane and some time after thereafter to Tony Bellew for the vacant WBC Absolute title. He put Tony down in round one with a swift left hook, but was down himself in round three and lost via third round TKO in the highly charged atmosphere of Goodison Park, Liverpool, Tony's home turf and that of the “Toffees”.
In building his career Ilunga won the vacant WBC Silver belt in Russia, with a fifth round TKO over Dmitry Kudryashov, successfully defending it with a MD over Alexei Papin. He won the WBC Absolute title with a UD over Michal Cieslak. Michal knocked him down in the fourth. Ilunga returned the favor in the fifth, during a wild night in Kinshasa.
Tim Rickson, BBN Editor: "Makabu has had three world championship fights in a row, but they've been spread out over three years, whereas Jack has had five in that time and this'll be his third fight in nine months, so the momentum is with the Swede. His last world title fight was in 2019, so he hasn't been operating at the same level as the champion, but his last fight with Richie Rivera was a very decent test and that would have been a great stepping stone to this fight.
"I admire Jack's attitude and determination in chasing his goal, but he's not the fighter he once was. As the reigning champion, I'm siding with Makabu to win on close points decision."
WBC Top 10 Cruiserweight World Champions
1. Evander Holyfield (US)
2. Oleksandr Usyk (Ukraine)
3. Juan Carlos Gomez (Cuba-Germany)
4. David Haye (GB)
5. Tony Bellew (GB)
6. Mairis Briedis (Latvia)
7. Zsolt Erdei (Hungary)
8. Krzystof Wlodarczyk (Poland)
9. Jean-Marc Mormeck (France)
10. Anaclet Wamba (France)