In a rematch, WBC cruiserweight champion Ilunga Makabu fired a warning to Canelo Alvarez after scoring a split decision victory over Thabiso Mchunu.
Proving that you can go home again, Hall of Fame boxing promoter Don King returned to his native Buckeye state on Saturday night to host championship boxing at the sold-out W.D. Packard Music Hall in Warren, Ohio.
In the main event battle of southpaw South Africans, Makabu (29-2, 25 K.O.s) of Johannesburg successfully defended his title for the second time.
He earned a shot at four-division world champion Canelo Alvarez by getting a split-decision over WBC Silver Cruiserweight titleholder Thabiso Mchunu (23-6, 13 K.O.s) of KwaZulu-Natal.
Judges Steve Weisfeld and Jamie Garayua scored the closely contested bout 115-113 and 116-112 respectively for Makabu, while Nathan Palmer saw it 115-113 for Mchunu.
“Today, I didn’t come for the knockout,” said Makabu, who won the vacant WBC belt against Michal Cieslak almost precisely two years ago on Jan. 31, 2020.
“I just came to show that I can box. I am going to box and knock Canelo out in my next fight, baby.”
In his United States debut, the 34-year-old Makabu pressed the action against his compatriot. He successfully followed his team’s game plan from the opening bell to run his unbeaten streak to 10.
“We were leading the fight comfortably,” said Makubu’s trainer, Damien Durandt. “Junior (Makabu) boxed beautifully. We knew what Mchunu was about this time.
“He brought in some elements that surprised us. I told Junior not to look for the knockout. If it comes, we will take it. All I wanted from round one was points. He said to me, ‘I got you, baby.'”
Mchunu captured the WBC Silver title unanimously over Denis Lebedev on Dec. 21, 2019. Tonight saw his four-bout winning streak come to a disappointing end despite effectively counterpunching across 12 rounds.
“I landed a lot of my punches, but the judges saw it the other way, said the 33-year-old who fought in the U.S. for the sixth time. “He (Makabu) didn’t hurt me.”
Despite residing less than 300 miles away from each other, the two evenly matched South African cruiserweight champions traveled more than 8,000 miles to Warren, Ohio, to headline Don King’s return to his home state.
In addition to living in the same country, Makabu and Mchunu are only one year apart in age. Both are southpaws and only one inch apart in height.
When moving forward, it remains to be seen whether Canelo will agree to face Makabu next on May 5 in Las Vegas.
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