By Ryan Maquiñana
Light heavyweight contender Isaac Chilemba loves a good challenge.
Whether it was leaving his home of Malawi for South Africa six years ago to jumpstart his pro career, or taking on seven straight fighters with a combined record of 117-6, Chilemba (18-1-1, 9 KOs) has annexed both the IBO and WBC International belts to become a player in the 175-pound picture.
This week, Chilemba arrives at the Texas Station Casino in Las Vegas on short notice to face two-time world title challenger Edison Miranda (41-6, 35 KOs) in a ten-rounder that will serve as the main event on ESPN2 Friday Night Fights.
BoxingScene.com caught up with the light heavyweight slugger who piqued onlookers’ attention in Atlantic City with an explosive second-round knockout of Jameson Bostic last October on the Sergio Martinez-Darren Barker undercard.
BoxingScene.com: Tell us about your beginnings in the sport, and how things have changed since you started in South Africa. This is your fifth fight in America.
Isaac Chilemba: I did my amateur career in Malawi, where I grew up, and six years ago, I went to South Africa to start my professional boxing career. Yes, I’ve been fighting in America now, and the promotion and atmosphere is really big here. It’s really different than in South Africa, about three steps ahead. It’s quite an experience here.
BoxingScene.com: The last seven fighters you’ve faced have a combined record of 117-6, and that includes four unbeaten fighters. In fact, all of them are wins with the exception of a draw with Thomas Oosthuizen.
Isaac Chilemba: You try to get the best fighters you can to fight you, and so I ended up happening fighting four guys in a row who had never lost before. I’d say the Oosthuizen fight was definitely my biggest fight up to this point.
BoxingScene.com: In your last fight with Jameson Bostic, you seemed to really load up on your punches after you noticed he was hurt, and you finished him. For the fans who haven’t been able to watch you fight, how would you describe your style?
Isaac Chilemba: I have power and quick movement. That’s what I bring to the fight, and that’s what I plan to bring to the fans next Friday.
BoxingScene.com: Now you face a veteran slugger Edison Miranda, which is a step up from Bostic. How have you and new trainer Dan Birmingham approached this fight strategically?
Isaac Chilemba: I try to do better than I did in the previous fight. I try to add something different and grow. From then to now, I’ve been getting good workouts with my new trainer [Dan Birmingham]. Miranda’s been around for a while. He fought all the great boxers you can name, so he knows how to handle this game. I’ve never fought such an experienced fighter. He’s a puncher, and we plan on outworking him. It’s my time to show him I can outwork him and knock him out.
BoxingScene.com: You’re replacing Yordanis Despaigne on what would have been a rematch. Coming in on such short notice, how ready do you feel for this opportunity?
Isaac Chilemba: I’m always ready. I always try to live my life right. I’m always in the gym, and I’ve been working out since December. When my manager [Damian Ramirez] said we were offered the fight, we looked at his style, and went over the gameplan. It’s not so much time, but we’re working on it, and we’ll be ready for Miranda.
BoxingScene.com: You’re ranked in the top 15 of all four major sanctioning bodies, with the highest being sixth in the WBC. If you win this fight, you will surely rise up the rankings and get closer to a world title shot. Do you have an immediate plan of what you’d like to do next if you should beat Miranda?
Isaac Chilemba: I want to fight the greatest fighters out there. We haven’t discussed with my team yet what we would do after this Miranda fight. We’re focusing on this fight, and then either a world title or something that would help me move closer to that. [Chad] Dawson, [Bernard] Hopkins, [Jean] Pascal, [Tavoris] Cloud—it all depends on how well I do in this fight.
Ryan Maquiñana writes a weekly column for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area (CSNBayArea.com). He’s also a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and Ring Magazine’s Ratings Advisory Panel. E-mail him at [email protected], check out his blog at www.maqdown.com, or follow him on Twitter: @RMaq28.