Badou Jack achieved the history he set out to make from the moment he accepted this fight.
Precision power punching went a long way toward Jack becoming a three-division titlist after he stopped Ilunga ‘Junior’ Makabu in the 12th round. Makabu was down in rounds four and eleven, before a final flurry by Jack forced referee Mark Lyson to halt the contest at 54 seconds of round twelve.
Jack ended the three-year WBC cruiserweight title reign of Makabu with the win in the ESPN+ Pay-Per-View co-feature Sunday evening from Diriyah Arena in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia. The 39-year-old Jack became the first Muslim boxer to win a major title in Saudi Arabia with the incredible performance after having previously won the WBC super middleweight and WBA light heavyweight titles on U.S. soil.
“Alhamdulillah, it feels amazing,” Jack said during the in-ring post-fight interview of the historic feat. “Someone said I was also the oldest cruiserweight champion of all time.”
Action was slow in the first three minutes but picked up in a hurry in round two. Jack—a 2008 Olympian for Sweden who relocated to Las Vegas and now lives in Dubai—found success both with his jab and left hook to the body. Makabu was already at a height and reach disadvantage and struggled to work his way inside. Jack managed to find his desired spacing even in a tiny 18-foot ring, using subtle lateral movement to disallow Makabu from ever setting his feet.
Makabu found greater success closing the gap in round three. The defending titleholder from South Africa by the way of Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo landed several left hands to the body, then later came back with a right hook over the top. Jack took the shot well but his offense was stunted as he was forced to play defense for most of the round.
Jack added to his early lead in a big way with the bout’s knockdown. Much of round four was fought on even terms before Jack sent the defending titlist to the canvas. A right hand knocked Makabu off balance, though the rest of his fall appeared to be aided by a tangling of the feet as he rolled on his back. The official knockdown ruling was met without protest, though Makabu was able to beat the count and appeared to be clear headed once action resumed.
Momentum remained in favor of the challenger, as Jack’s superior footwork and skill set controlled the action and the pace throughout rounds five and six. Makabu was back to square one, unable to work past Jack’s jab.
Jack was encouraged by head trainer and former title challenger Johnathon Banks to stick to boxing and not get caught in a bruising fight that would favor Makabu. Jack was able to have his cake and eat it, too. A straight right hand by the 39-year-old challenger briefly froze Makabu in place in the latter half of round seven. Jack confidently boxed in the final minute of the frame.
A different look was presented by Jack, who spent the first half of round eight fighting out of a southpaw stance. He reverted to orthodox once Makabu clocked him with a right hook, responding with two straight right hands along of his own inside the final minute. Jack also connected with an overhand right, followed by a left hook and right uppercut while Makabu was unable to offer anything in return.
Makabu attempted to pick up the pace in round nine while Jack reserved his strength for the back half of the frame. The more telling blows were landed by the challenger, including a right hand upstairs just before the bell.
Jack cemented his victory with a second knockdown, which came early in round eleven. Makabu marched forward, only to walk into an overhand right. Jack followed up with a second right hand around the guard of Makabu, whose legs gave out as he fell to the canvas.
Makabu was instructed to go for a knockout as he was well behind on the cards. It was Jack who closed the show. A right hand sent Makabu to the ropes, with an ensuing flurry of power shots forcing the stoppage.
Jack is now 28-3-3 (17KOs) overall and 5-0-2 in major title fights, while Makabu fell to 29-3 (25KOs) with the loss.
The 35-year old Congolese bruiser won the WBC cruiserweight title in January 2020, with just two successful title defenses over a three-year span. The bout was his first since a controversial twelve-round win over Thabiso Mchunu in their mandatory title fight rematch last January 29 in Warren, Ohio. He was due to face his next mandatory opponent, Noel Mikaelan, on January 21 in Miami, Florida. The bout fell through, leaving Makabu available to face Jack though which resulted in his title reign coming to a bitter close.
Jack was efficient and dominant in his approach. Makabu threw and landed more punches (242-of-845 compared to 231-of-571 for Jack) according to Compubox, but Jack landed at a significantly higher percentage (40.5% to 28.6.% for Makabu). Jack landed at a staggering 60.8% of his power punches (177-of 291), finding success even at the expense of occasionally ignoring his corner’s instructions.
“I was standing there too much,” Jack admitted. “[Banks] told me to box and move. That’s not really my style. I mean box, yeah. But I like to stand there and fight.”
It led to an historic moment for Jack, who is also the first ever boxer to win major titles as a super middleweight, light heavyweight and cruiserweight.
Headlining the show, Jake Paul (6-0, 4KOs) and Tommy Fury (8-0, 4KOs) will collide in a scheduled eight-round cruiserweight contest.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox