On March 30, top-rated light heavyweight contender Isaac “Golden Boy” Chilemba (20-1-1, 9KO’s) will look to wrestle away the WBC silver light heavyweight title from defending champion Tony Bellew (19-1, 12KO’s) when the two meet in the main event on Matchroom Sport’s promoted card taking place at the Echo Arena in Bellew’s home city of Liverpool.
“I have been waiting for an opportunity like this for a very long time,” said the WBC #4, IBF #9, WBO #13 and WBA #14-rated Chilemba. “Bellew is a very worthwhile opponent and I am not underestimating him on any level, but my team and I are extremely confident going into this fight. I know that fighting on foreign soil is never easy, but whether it is by KO or on points, I only see this fight ending in one way, and that is with my hand being raised as the clear-cut winner.”
For Chilemba, this will be his second fight training under the tutelage of highly regarded trainer and former world champion, James “Buddy” McGirt. Chilemba feels that his work with McGirt has made a huge difference in his game and plans to show it on March 30.
“Working with Buddy has been great. Buddy is a fantastic trainer and he has improved on my skills greatly. I needed someone who could take me to that next level and that’s exactly what Buddy has done. Training in the U.S. has been great; the training and the sparring I get here is superior to anywhere else I have ever trained in my life. The vibe and atmosphere in the gyms are very motivating and it drives me to work harder day in and day out.”
The road to glory for Chilemba has been anything but easy. Born in Blantyre, Malawi (one of the poorest countries in the world), Chilemba was one of 10 siblings, in charge of helping to raise his younger brothers and sisters while his single mother would leave for months at a time, looking for work to help support their large family.
Around the age of 14, Chilemba discovered boxing and began training and fighting while still looking after his younger siblings. At 16, both of Chilemba’s parents passed away, leaving him fully in charge of his family.
The South African-native turned pro at just 18 years old, scoring a second-round TKO over Thamsanga Tindleni, on October 19, 2005. By mid-2008, Chilemba had won 11 of 12 fights, with eight by knockout. The lone blemish came against Willbeforce Shihepo, with Chilemba losing a six-round decision. However, Chilemba avenged that defeat in a rematch four months later, earning a six-round points victory. During this period, he also scored an impressive eighth-round TKO victory over 10-0-1 David Basajjamivule.
With his record standing at 11-1, 8KO’s, Chilemba took on Charles Adamu for the vacant African Boxing Union super middleweight title, winning a dominant 12-round unanimous decision, on September 13, 2008, at Emperor’s Palace, in Kempton Park.
Chilemba’s next three fights saw him take on a trio of opponents whom had a combined record of 42-1-1, with Chilemba winning three consecutive 12-round unanimous decisions, picking up the vacant IBO super middleweight, WBC International light heavyweight and WBO African light heavyweight titles in the process.
On November 6, 2011, in one of the most anticipated fights to take place in South Africa in years, Chilemba took on fellow red-hot South African prospect, Thomas Oosthuizen (13-0), with the outcome being ruled a split decision draw. The bout against Oosthuizen would be Chilemba’s last at super middleweight.
Looking to make a name for himself outside of his native country, Chilemba faced the dangerous Maxim Vlasov (19-0) in Tulsa, OK, winning a 10-round unanimous decision, in his first fight outside of South Africa.
The performance against Vlasov, which shown on the nationally televised ESPN Friday Night Fights, caught the eye of a number of stateside promoters, including Lou DiBella. After one more bout in South Africa-another dominant 12-round unanimous decision over Vikapita Meroro (20-1) to regain the vacant WBC International light heavyweight title-Chilemba came back to the States, signing a long-term exclusive promotional contract with DiBella Entertainment (DBE). In his first bout under the DBE banner, Chilemba scored a vicious second-round TKO over James Bostic on the undercard of Sergio Martinez’ middleweight title defense against Darren Barker on October 1, 2011, at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.
In February 2012, Chilemba returned to ESPN’s Friday Night Fights, winning an impressive 10-round unanimous decision over former world-title challenger, and longtime contender, Edison Miranda.
Promoting a tripleheader to be televised by HBO on September 29, 2012, DiBella decided to match Chilemba, now rated by all four major sanctioning bodies, against the undefeated former two-division world champion Zsolt Erdei (also promoted by DBE). The winner of the bout would clearly cement themselves as one of the top dogs in the 175lb. division, with a title shot looming. However, weeks before the bout was to take place, Erdei pulled out of the contest after suffering two broken ribs in training. Chilemba remained on the card in an off-tv stay-busy fight, but he missed out on an opportunity to showcase his budding skills on one of boxing’s biggest platforms, HBO.
“The fallout with Erdei was definitely a frustrating moment in my career,” said Chilemba. “These things happen in boxing all of the time though, and I am a professional, so I just took it in stride and knew that I would get another opportunity soon. Everything happens for a reason, you just have to keep your faith.”
Not looking past the task at hand, Chilemba does have one fighter in his immediate sites, and that would be light heavyweight champion Chad Dawson.
“I want Chad badly,” stated Chilemba. He has both the WBC and Ring Magazine titles, and those are the two titles that I want more than anything else. At the end of the day, I will fight whomever my team puts in front of me, and whoever it takes for me to be recognized as the number one light heavyweight in the world, but the fight with Chad is definitely the one I am ultimately looking for.”
The bout is scheduled for 12 rounds and is promoted by Matchroom Sport, in association with DiBella Entertainment. SKY Sports will televise the championship card in the U.K., while WealthTV will air the event in the U.S.