Ilunga Junior Makabu is ready to reclaim his old title.
Any concerns of having to scramble for a replacement opponent were alleviated when the Congolese southpaw touched down in the U.S. from South Africa on Thursday. Visa issues delayed his trip by a few days but Makabu has arrived in Miami in time for his vacant WBC cruiserweight title fight versus Noel Mikaelyan.
The pair of top-rated cruiserweight contenders will meet this Saturday atop a Don King-promoted Fite TV Pay-Per-View event from Casino Miami Jai Alai.
Makabu was forced to miss the final pre-fight press conference due to the delay, though nobody involved—including Mikaelyan—seemed concerned by his absence.
“I don’t care,” Mikaelyan said when asked about the development. “The most important thing is that he’s here Saturday in the ring. If not, then I will be very disappointed.”
The fight will be the first for Mikaelyan since a win over Youri Kalenga in their title eliminator last February. The victory was supposed to ensure a direct shot at the WBC cruiserweight title held at the time by Makabu (29-3, 25KOs). However, their previously scheduled January 21 clash at this very venue was canceled when Makabu was instead permitted a more lucrative opportunity in the form of a voluntary defense versus Badou Jack.
The financial windfall came at the physical expense of his title reign ending in a 12th round knockout defeat to Jack, who became a three-division titlist from their February 26 meeting in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia.
The belt was since vacated and will be contested between Mikaelyan and Makabu this weekend. Their scheduled twelve-round meeting tops a five-fight PPV card beginning at 8:00 p.m. ET. The suggested retail price is $19.99 plus tax to purchase the pay-per-view event.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox