Britain’s Next Top Heavyweight? Meet Martin Bakole Ilunga

Top Scottish coach Billy Nelson knows his boxing and is convinced that within 18 months, Britain will have another world-class heavyweight.

He’s talking about Martin Bakole Ilunga – and no, he doesn’t sound very British.

He isn’t British. Yet.

Bakole was born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, fought out of South Africa and now finds himself in Scotland after a spell in Preston.

Nelson hopes the 25 year old will gain his British citizenship early next year – and then start chasing big names.

“I believe there are only two people in Britain who can give Martin a fight and they are Joshua and Tyson Fury,” said Nelson, who says Bakole only had 17 amateur bouts.

“I think he beats everyone else.

“We did 50 rounds with Anthony Joshua (before the Carlos Takam fight) and you don’t keep getting invited back for sparring unless you are being competitive.

“Robert McCracken says he will be some fighter in 18 months and I agree.

“I think by then Martin will be ready to fight for the world title.

“Two years tops. I truly believe that. At 27, he will be coming into his own.

“We just need to get him used to fighting over the longer rounds under the lights.”

Bakole fights under the lights in Edinburgh next Saturday (NOV 11) when he meets Ali Baghouz for the vacant IBO Intercontinental heavyweight title, live on Spike.

Nelson predicts a comfortable win for a 9-0 (6) heavyweight he says “does things other heavyweights don’t do.

“Martin has amazing agility and speed,” he explained. “He makes them miss, counters with twos and threes, moves his feet. Martin moves like a middleweight.”

So how did he end up living in a flat in a village just outside Airdrie?

Bakole is the younger brother of Ilunga Makabu and came to Liverpool last May to support him when he fought Tony Bellew for the vacant WBC cruiserweight title at Goodison Park.

He stayed and ended up in Preston with Johnney Roye.

Roye got him some fights, including a first-round stoppage of former Southern Area champion Dominic Akinlade, and Bakole asked Nelson to train him this summer after a sparring session with Stephen Simmons.

His first fight under Nelson, and Barry McGuigan’s Cyclone Promotions, was a six-round points win over Kamil Sokolowski at the York Hall last month.

McGuigan wasn’t overly impressed and Nelson put that down to tiredness.

Bakole was with him at a show in Edinburgh the night before and was up early the next morning to catch the train down to London for the fight.

“He was flat,” said Nelson, “and he still smashed an opponent who was tough-as-old-boots.

“He broke his nose, gave him a leathering and that was Martin when he wasn’t feeling good about himself.”

Nelson expects Bakole to dish out similar punishment to Baghouz, a 29 year old from Belgium with a 10-0-1 (6) record who fought Joshua in the amateurs.

Joshua beat him on the way to gold at the Haringey Box Cup at Alexandra Palace in 2009.

“He’s a come forward fighter,” said Nelson of Baghouz, “but against the level of opposition he’s been fighting.

“I don’t think he will be able to do that with Martin.

“Martin is way beyond this level already.”


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