On January 29 at Packard Music Hall in Ohio, World Boxing Council cruiserweight champion Junior Illunga Makabu (28-2, 25KOs) will defend his title against WBC Silver Champion Thabiso Mchunu (23-5, 13KOs).
Both are left-handers and this will be their second fight. In 2015, they collided with a WBC eliminator. Thabiso dominated the first six laps. Illunga fought back to knock him out in the 11th round of a close encounter. Now they are ready to give us a second helping.
At the November WBC convention, manager Eddy Reynoso got board clearance for Saul “Canelo” Alvarez to take a fifth division title by fighting Makabu. But before this can even be discussed, Illunga must fight number one challenger Mchunu.
Thabiso and team flew to Mexico to get visas from the US embassy. They train with exacting intensity and put the finishing touches on lengthy 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 hopping to relax. Then sessions on the pads and 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 appeared to be in top condition.
“I’m feeling good. I’m ready for this and I need to make sure I get this one. I’m fighting for a WBC title and it’s every fighter’s dream,” said Mchunu.
“When I first fought with 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 the smarter boxer. So I’m going to do what I do best am, which is to stalk him and outbox him. I am convinced that we did everything we could to win.”
Mchunu’s trainer, Smith, is confident that his fighter will win the WBC title.
“This fight has been almost six months in the making, so we’re putting the hammer down. We’ve been in and out of training camp for three to four months. I ask more of Thabiso and myself. We know what’s at stake. everything is more detailed and a bit more intense. He has the ability to do great things,” Smith said.
“I believe in Thabiso. We have been together on this journey for eleven years. It’s a great story. It’s a series of ups and downs and we’re going to hit a huge up! Hats off to Makabu. He is a slow starter. Then he relies on his gas tank and forces the pace. Now we know, and it’s a different way of thinking and a different approach. Thabiso is smart and he can make a tough fight very easily. The boxer always wins.
“We will be the matador who slays the bull. We are going to slay the dragon on January 29th!”