Many people seemed to write off Martin Bakole’s credentials following his defeat to Michael Hunter at York Hall in October 2018. The Congolese had recorded 11 straight victories prior to his battle with the American and seemingly had the power to trouble anyone he faced.
However, Hunter proved too much on that occasion stopping his opponent in the final round of a scheduled ten.
Bakole was the bookies favourite to overcome ‘The Bounty’ following the latter’s move up from Cruiserweight. But, Hunter, whose only previous defeat was to former undisputed champion Oleksandr Usyk registered somewhat of a breakout night at heavyweight and has since gone on to beat experienced pair Alexander Ustinov and Sergey Kuzmin.
There is no particular shame in losing to Hunter, who has landed himself a fight with Alexander Povetkin on the undercard of Anthony Joshua’s crucial rematch with Andy Ruiz Jr on December 7.
Yet Bakole remains adamant that he was distracted on that evening and lost focus over reasons he has never made public. The 26-year-old has since returned, more explosive than ever and his profile has also drastically improved since linking up with Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing, winning his last four fights since his sole defeat last year.
Perhaps he deserves more credit too for the calibre of opponents he has fought. Whilst his two standout wins out of the four were against the experienced, yet ageing duo of Mariusz Wach and Kevin Johnson, the victories were impressive when broken down in isolation.
Wach, who lost on a unanimous decision to Wladimir Klitschko in 2012 was stopped inside eight rounds and despite the Pole being clearly past his best the experience of sharing the ring and receiving some solid rounds you would forsee being beneficial to Bakole going forward, even if he was perhaps expected to have dispatched his foe quicker.
Whilst, he joined a rare group of fighters which can claim to have stopped Kevin Jonhson. The 40-year-old has shared the ropes with the likes of Tyson Fury, Dereck Chisora and Daniel Dubois who have all had to settle for decision victories, whilst Anthony Joshua remains the only Brit to have knocked him out.
Bakole, who trains up in Airdrie alongside mentor Billy Nelson made swift work of the American, recording a fifth round win and followed this up two weeks later by beating Rodney Hernandez at the Manchester Arena in a crushing two round stoppage.
With the 26-year-old not expected to return until 2020, we take a look at who could be in on the horizon for the resurgent heavyweight.
Dubois has been tipped as a future heavyweight star and on good grounds too. The 22-year-old has raced to 13 straight victories, including a fifth round KO of former Great Britain teammate Nathan Gorman in July at the O2. ‘Dynamite’ followed this up with a first round destruction of the limited Ebenezer Tetteh to claim the Commonwealth strap and can now cement his position in the WBC rankings when he faces little-known Japanese heavyweight Kyotaro Fujimoto just before Christmas.
Eddie Hearn has already publicly called for a match-up between the two heavy hitters, whilst Dubois’ promoter Frank Warren has revealed that British contenders Dereck Chisora, David Price and Dave Allen have all either rejected the opportunity or priced themselves out of a bout with Dubois.
The pair have a combined 24 knockouts at the time of writing, with Dubois only taken the distance by Kevin Johnson as mentioned above. A potential clash is possible for the new year and would be beneficial to each other’s profiles, whilst a stoppage would on paper seem inevitable.
Another clash which also has all the makings of a swift, yet highly explosive evening, Olympic silver medalist Joe Joyce. ‘The Juggernaut’ is set to challenge for European honours against Marco Huck, possibly in Germany however it has been the representatives of both which have been making most noise over a potential dust up more so than the fighters themselves.
Bakole’s trainer Billy Nelson has persistently called for a fight between the pair, whilst Joyce’s manager Sam Jones has responded in equal measure. Joyce also boosts huge punching power, securing 12 KOs out of 13, with former world title challenger Bryant Jennings only seeing the distance in defeat in July.
If the Juggernaut was to secure the EBU European strap, the fight would land more demand and would be a good 50-50 contest on paper.
Michael Hunter rematch
Bakole’s sole blemish as mentioned came to Michael Hunter last October. The Cruiserweight-turned heavyweight contender has the fearsome Russian Povetkin to challenge first, which is by no means a formality. The 40-year-old two-time world title challenger proved he still has plenty to offer, seeing off Hughie Fury on a unanimous points decision at the O2 in August, when many believed Fury had chosen Povetkin at the perfect time when he was perceived to be on the decline.
‘Sasha’ has just two losses on his record to Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko and is likely to fit and firing with just over a 12 week lay-off since his last bout, compared to the 11 month break he had between his knockout defeat to Joshua and his victory over Fury.
Should Hunter win, he may be dismissive about a rematch with Bakole and could instead pursue the victor of Joshua’s rematch with Andy Ruiz Jr, however a loss very much opens the door to a second fight with the Congolese, although he would likely have to travel if he wants to seize redemption.
Bakole alongside trainer Billy Nelson appear desperate for a step up in class and 2020 is surely the time to put words into action.
Four successive scalps this year sets the Airdrie-based heavyweight up nicely to secure the fights mentioned above, with a fight with Joyce the most likely option combined with the interest generated from a surely explosive build-up between both camps who aren’t renowned as the best of friends.
However, Nelson exclusively told Pro Boxing Fans in October they will be looking far past the domestic names mentioned and towards a world title opportunity, so watch this space.