Canelo Alvarez vs Ilunga Makabu: Who is the Congolese cruiserweight?

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The boxing world was shocked yesterday when it was announced at the WBC convention that Canelo Alvarez would move up to cruiserweight in an attempt to gain a title in a fifth weight class.

Alvarez has conquered the super middleweight division and has tasked himself with the new challenge of obtaining champion status in the cruiserweight category. The man in his way, none other than Ilunga Makabu.

So - who is the current reigning WBC cruiserweight champion? Let’s take a look, shall we?

Ilunga ‘The Junior’ Makabu is a 34-year-old boxer who was born in Kananga – the capital city of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The cruiserweight fighter stands at six feet tall and has a reach of 188cm, which has certainly helped him in his boxing journey to becoming WBC cruiserweight champion.

Read more: Canelo Alvarez vs Ilunga Makabu: Date, Venue, UK Start Time, Stats, Card, Tickets, Odds And More


Makabu's professional career 

His professional career began in defeat in June 2008, when a fight with the South African, Khayeni Hlungwane, ended bitterly via technical knockout in the first round. Not the best start for the Congolese powerhouse.

Things could only get better from here, and it's safe to say they certainly did.

His first victory came just three months later, this time Makabu reversed the result and emerged victorious via a first-round technical knockout against Zimbabwean - Elvis Moyo.

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His first major title came in 2011, when he fought Brazillian – Pedro Otas, for the title of the vacant WBF cruiserweight champion.

This twelve-round fight was where Makabu really made his mark. An absolutely dominant performance from the, at the time, 23-year-old saw the duel end via technical knockout in the eleventh round.

Over the next three years, the Congolese man's dominance continued.

He first picked up the vacant IBF Youth cruiserweight title against Gogita Gorgiladze in February 2013, then won the vacant WBC silver cruiserweight title against Dmytro Kucher just five months later.

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Enter Giveaway

He then retained this in his next affair in the ring against American, Eric Fields and then had the finest moment of his career to date, defeating Jamaican Glen Johnson on the 24th June 2014 for the title of WBC International cruiserweight champion.

Naturally, after this Makabu set his sights on the WBC cruiserweight title – but things didn’t go according to plan.

The biggest fight of his career by a long stretch came in 2016, where he faced off in Liverpool with none other than Tony Bellew.

Makabu knocked out by Tony Bellew 

Bellew was fighting for a third world title and went into the fight as a massive favourite – to which he proved why.

Bellew knocked the Congolese southpaw out cold. After being rocked by a left-right combination, Makabu retreated to the ropes, to which Bellew hunted him down and finished with a swift left hook.

The fight wasn’t completely one-sided, with Makabu landing some excellent blows throughout – even breaking Bellew’s nose with a lethal left hand at one point.

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Sadly, it just wasn't enough. Bellew ended Makabu’s 19 match professional win-streak and left him title-less.

Makabu decided to take a year out but came back much stronger. Mentally and physically.

He wasted no time in regaining the WBC international cruiserweight title against Taylor Mabika in September 2018, then in 2019, the WBC Silver cruiserweight title became available – to which he would fight Dmitry Kudryashov in his homeland of Russia.

Makabu fights in Russia 

The two fighters had a whopping combined 46 knockouts in 47 fights, which led to the media predicting this fight to end with a certain finish.

Makabu won this fight by a fifth-round technical knockout, although Kudryashov wasn’t knocked down.

A vicious stream of undefended punches towards the latter of the fifth round forced the referee to step in and stop the bout. He then went to defend this title against another Russian, Alexei Papin.
The defence took place once again in Russia and once again – Makabu prevailed.

He ended up winning the fight by points decision but did dominate proceedings – nearly finishing off Papin in both rounds eight and twelve.

An in-form Makabu had only one thing on his mind from here on in – redemption. So when the WBC cruiserweight title became vacant again, a fight was swiftly arranged with Polish-born Michal Cieslak.

Makabu and Cieslak faced off on the 31st January 2020, after the original date in 2019 was postponed. This was to be a really great battle between two excellent boxers, but after the heartbreak for Makabu in 2016 – you just sensed the Congo boy had this one in him.

And that he did.

Although Cieslak began the fight on the front foot, the fourth round saw Makabu turn the tides of the battle and after looking comfortable throughout the rest of the fight, he was eventually awarded the unanimous decision after 12 rounds and won the title in front of his own country. A fine performance and most importantly, redemption for the events in Liverpool.

Makabu was then scheduled to make his first defence of his title against the reigning African cruiserweight champion Olanrewaju Durodola. This was by no means an easy fight, but with his home crowd behind him – once again he got the job done in Congo.

He won by a come-from-behind seventh-round knockout, after appearing to be down on the scorecards in the first six. But the seventh saw him bounce back to knock Durodola down with a mean pair of left hooks with a minute to go in the round. Durodola did manage to beat the eight-count, but the ref intervened and waved off the fight anyway.

So here we are in 2021, with Makabu sitting pretty on a 28-2 professional record, but has been out of the ring for well over a year now.

But with the latest Canelo Alvarez news, Makabu will be forced to make a tasty return, and try to defend his title against arguably one of the greatest boxers of all time.

As boxing fans, this is surely one to note down and look forward to. Let’s hope a date is swiftly organised in the near future.

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