Two entertaining World Boxing Super Series tournaments kept the wheels turning at cruiserweight for several years. They provided fans with multiple clashes between the best the division had to offer, showing off the talents of Oleksandr Usyk in winning the first and validating the talent of Mairis Briedis in winning the second.
2021 was a slower piece of business. Lawrence Okolie was the biggest story of the year, emerging as a new WBO titlist to be reckoned with. Briedis defended his claim to the lineal and IBF titles once to little fanfare. WBA titlist Arsen Goulamirian hasn’t been in the ring since 2019. WBC titlist Ilunga Makabu missed just 2021.
Makabu won’t miss 2022. Saturday (Fite TV, 8 PM EST), Makabu resumes hostilities with fellow south African Thabiso Mchunu. Their first fight in 2014 ended in a stoppage win for Makabu and both have traveled their own roads since. Makabu has won nine in a row, Mchunu four, and there’s no avoiding the hint of discussion around a Makabu-Saul Alvarez clash somewhere down the road.
It doesn’t appear imminent but what is quiet today can become a discussion again. It gives this one a hint more intrigue.
Let’s get into it.
Stats and Stakes
Title: WBC cruiserweight (2020-Present, 1 defense)
Previous Titles: None
Weight: 197 lbs.
Hails from: Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa
Record: 28-2 (25 KO, 2 KOBY)
Rankings: #2 (Ring), #3 (TBRB), #4 (ESPN)
Record in Title Fights: 2-1, 1 KO, 1 KOBY
Last Five Opponents: 96-37-4 (.715)
Notable Outcomes, TBRB and/or Ring Rated Foes: Dymytro Kucher MD12; Thabiso Mchunu KO11; Michael Cieslak UD12
Additional Current/Former Titlists Faced: Glen Johnson TKO9; Tony Bellew TKO by 3
Title/Previous Titles: None
Weight: 198 ½ lbs.
Hails from: Cato Ridge, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Record: 23-5, 13 KO, 3 KOBY
Press Rankings: #3 (BoxRec), #4 (TBRB, Ring), #6 (ESPN)
Record in Major Title Fights: 0-1, 1 KOBY
Last Five Opponents: 120-15-4 (.878)
Notable Outcomes, TBRB and/or Ring Rated Foes: Ilunga Makabu KO by 11; Oleksandr Usyk KO by 9
Additional Current/Former Titlists Faced: Denis Lebedev UD12
The Pick: The first fight between this pair was a physical, entertaining affair and the rematch should be no different. Makabu has a slight edge in height, arm length, and offensive variety in his favor. Mchunu got off to a big start the first time but Makabu was patient and eventually broke Mchunu down. The challenger will need to recall his success with the right hand and both men are likely to target the body to great effect. Makabu’s uppercut will be critical to his success, especially in the later rounds. Over the course of their careers, Makabu has just been the better fighter and the trend should hold on Saturday. The pick is another Makabu stoppage.
Rold Picks 2022: 2-1
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, a member of the International Boxing Research Organization, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org