IIunga Makabu ‘ready to become champ again’ as he takes on Noel Gevor Mikaelyan
Earlier this year, IIunga Makabu lost his WBC cruiserweight title at the hands of Badou Jack. However, now he has the opportunity to regain his old title when he faces Noel Gevor Mikaelyan as part of legendary promoter Don King’s 92nd birthday celebration at the Casino Miami Jai Alai in Miami on Saturday.
Makabu, The Ring’s No. 5-rated cruiserweight, says he is dialed in on his goal to become a two-time world titleholder.
“I’m ready to become a champion again,” Makabu (29-3, 25 knockouts) proclaimed to The Ring. “I am prepared for the fight. I’m also ready to fix the mistakes I made in the past.”
When pressed on what those mistakes were, the Congolese-born fighter admitted he didn’t take the Jack fight as seriously as he should have and paid the price.
“I was not active for one year and also I was away from the gym,” he admitted. “It taught me a lesson to not stay away from training.”
The 35-year-old southpaw had hoped to secure a rematch with Jack but has had to settle for Mikaelyan.
“It’s because Badou knows how dangerous I am, he doesn’t want to face me again,” he said. “That’s why he didn’t respect the contract.”
It is widely believed that Jack will step up to bridgerweight and face Lucasz Rozanski, although nothing has been made official. Meanwhile Makabu expects to be victorious against Mikaelyan and make history in the process.
“I am tougher than him and I will be champion again,” he said pulling no punches. “I want to write a new story in Africa. I’ll be the first African to regain a WBC world title in less than a year,”
His long-time manager, Tarik Saadi, will be championing his fighter on Saturday and knows that a victory will lead to many new avenues to explore.
“IIunga absolutely needs to get his title back,” said Saadi. “Mikaelyan is not to be taken lightly, he has been patient for a long time. We prepared to fight with great intensity. IIunga needs to write another page of history in Africa and become a two-time world champion. Then he will be ready for possible unification and if possible, in the DR Congo because President Felix Antoine Tshisekedi is a lover of sport and particularly boxing which he practices as a hobby. I take this opportunity to greet him, the Minister of Sports Francois Kabulo and the boxing president Ferdinand Luyoyo and tell them that we will return to victorious to the DRC.
“I appeal to all Congolese people from the DRC or the diaspora around the world to support champion Makabu in his mission to regain his WBC world title. What a story, to think that it all started in 1974 with Don King and Zaire at the time with two American’s Muhammad Ali-George Foreman in the ring in Kinshasha and to now find themselves with the same promoter Don King in 2023. This is what drives us all in this sport.”
Mikaelyan (26-2, 11 KOs) has been a professional since 2011. He won his first 22 fights before dropping a close decision to former titlist Krzysztof Wlodarczyk (SD 12) in an IBF title eliminator. Two fights later he was edged out by another former titleholder Mairis Briedis (UD 12) in Season 2 of the World Boxing Super Series in November 2018.
The 33-year-old has fought just three times since, most recently, he outboxed Youri Kalenga (UD 12) to earn the right to fight for the WBC title.
It will be interesting to see what Makabu has left after losing to Jack and if Mikaelyan, who will be snapping a 21-month spell of inactivity, can win the big one. The hunch is Makabu will have enough fire-power to win a competitive but clear 12-round unanimous decision.
Makabu-Mikaelyan, plus undercard bouts, will be broadcast on DonKing.com, FITE.TV and ITUBE247.com. from 8.00 p.m. ET/ 5 p.m. PT.
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