Tony Bellew knows all about Ilunga ‘Junior’ Makabu after sharing his most famous night with the Congolese puncher back in May 2016.
World Boxing News was privileged to be ringside that night as Bellew blasted out Makabu in three rounds. ‘Bomber’ picked himself up off the canvas to demolish the dangerous contender at his beloved Goodison Park Stadium, home of Everton Football Club.
It took just seven minutes and twenty seconds.
Much has been said about that night on Merseyside since then, but it just seemed as though it didn’t matter who was in the opposite corner. Bellew was simply on a mission.
Almost four years on and Bellew is now happily retired. Makabu hasn’t looked back. Six stoppages from seven wins tell their own story.
Makabu is now on the verge of making history by staging a world title fight in Kinshasa for the first time in over 45 years.
Staging ‘The Rumble in the Jungle’ back in 1974 as Muhammad Ali shocked George Foreman, Makabu has the opportunity to follow in great footsteps on January 31.
The 32-year-old battles Michal Cieslak for the vacant WBC cruiserweight championship, the very same belt Bellew claimed on his hallowed turf.
It seems a pretty even contest on paper. Makabu is more experienced than the undefeated Pole, who is 19 fights into his perfect run.
Wins over Youri Kalenga and Olanrewaju Durodola have captured the division’s attention. Cieslak is firmly seen as a live challenger.
But with home advantage, Makabu will be confident.
Bellew has nothing but respect for the man he crushed so intently in the ring and embraced thereafter.
Therefore, the Liverpool man was edging towards his old rival when as for his opinion on the fight.
“Junior Makabu is a brilliant fighter,” Bellew pointed out exclusively to World Boxing News. “He has done extremely well since his loss to myself.
“I only wish him well for the future. I really hope he becomes a world champion!
“It’s going to be a hard fight against Michal Cieslak. But going on recent wins I make Illunga the slight favorite,” he added.
Cieslak hasn’t taken the easy route to the top. The 30-year-old faced the likes of Shawn Cox and ex-world champion Francisco Palacios early on in his career.
The Radom-born puncher is bidding to extend Poland’s love affair with the 200-pound division. His country has produced such title-holders as Dariusz Michalczewski, Tomasz Adamek and Krzysztof’s Włodarczyk and Głowacki.
Whoever comes out on top later this month, maybe Bellew would fancy his chances in a comeback – who knows?
MAKABU FORM (since Bellew)
Aug 24, 2019 – Aleksei Papin (MD 12/12)
June 16, 2019 – Dmitry Kudryashov (TKO 5)
Dec 8, 2018 – Giorgi Tevdorashvili (KO 2)
Oct 26, 2018 – Paata Aduashvili (KO 2)
Aug 25, 2018 – Taylor Mabika (RET 4)
Aug 25, 2017 – Mussa Ajibu (KO 4)
April 28, 2017 – Chamunorwa Gonorenda (KO 5)