Ilunga ‘Junior’ Makabu has loftier goals in mind than the current title defense on his schedule.
It’s not to say that he’s looking past Badou Jack. If anything, he is looking through the former two-division titlist, whom he has vowed to brutalize in their WBC cruiserweight title fight this weekend.
“I want Badou Jack to keep one thing in mind,” Makabu told the gathered crowd during the final pre-fight press conference. “I’m going to break your nose. I’m going to break your jaw. I’m going to break your ribs.
“I want to beat Badou and go pound-for-pound. I want to challenge all the champions, the WBA, the IBF, the WBO.”
Their title fight serves as the co-feature to an ESPN Pay-Per-View event this Sunday from Diriyah Arena in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia (2:00 p.m. ET/10:00 p.m. local time).
The well-traveled Makabu (29-2, 25KOs) will attempt the third defense of a WBC cruiserweight title reign spread out over more than three years. The Congolese boxer claimed the belt in a January 2020 unanimous decision win over Michael Cieslak in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo.
Makabu remained at home for a December 2020 knockout win over Olanrewaju Durodola and then sat out for more than a year preceding his repeat win over Thabiso Mchunu last January 29 in Warren, Ohio.
Most observers considered Makabu lucky to escape with the split decision victory, though unlucky in two separate title defenses which fell off the schedule. He was due to face then-secondary WBA titlist Ryad Merhy last September 30 in Kinshasa, only for the fight to fall through when Merhy was ordered to face full champ Arsen Goulamirian in a WBA title consolidation bout.
It was then ruled by the WBC that Makabu had to face mandatory challenger Noel Mikalaen, which his Hall of Fame promoter initially announced to headline a January 21 show in Miami. The fight fell off the schedule when Mikalaen was unable to proceed with the fight, leading Makabu to entertain a challenge from the 39-year-old Jack (27-3-3, 16KOs). The 35-year-old defending titlist is a -200 favorite according to bet365 sportsbook to extend his reign.
“I’m the (longtime) champion for a reason,” noted Makabu. “Everyone will see. I will go home AND STILL the WBC champion.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox