'Mchunu next in line to challenge for Makabu's title'

Smith says he'll rectify 'error' with WBC

Thabiso ‘The Rock’ Mchunu , left, and Ilunga ‘Junior’ Makabu exchange blows during their WBC cruiserweight elimination bout.
Thabiso ‘The Rock’ Mchunu , left, and Ilunga ‘Junior’ Makabu exchange blows during their WBC cruiserweight elimination bout.
Image: Nick Lourens

Trainer Sean Smith has cleared up the mystery that was caused last week by the WBC in its statement quoting president Mauricio Sulaiman saying his organisation has approved a request by Saul Canelo Alvarez’s manager and trainer Eddy Reynoso for his charge to challenge WBC cruiserweight holder Ilunga Junior Makabu next May.

Smith’s charge – WBC silver champion Thabiso “The Rock” Mchunu – is officially the mandatory challenger to Makabu. Mchunu earned the right in March after his points win over Evgeny Tishchenko in Russia.

It was later announced that Mchunu had been sanctioned to challenge Makabu. But the champion’s American promoter Don King has until now not confirmed the date and venue for the battle of the left handers, which will be a rematch. Makabu from Kananga in Congo defeated Mchunu by an 11th round stoppage in their WBC sanctioned fight in Durban in 2015. Makabu is trained in SA by Damien Durandt.

“We are mandatory challengers for Ilunga,” Smith said. “There is an obligation for Makabu to defend against Thabiso. Don King has not come up with the date and venue. Now the WBC Convention came and Canelo’s manager and trainer made a request to fight Junior and it has been announced that the request was approved quickly.”

Asked if they would take a step-aside fee should the Canelo camp approach them, Smith said: “We won’t take step-aside money; we want to fight Ilunga and win the WBC title. Canelo wants to fight Makabu in May – between that Makabu must settle the score with Thabiso. We are in the gym but obviously Thabiso needs to know exactly what is happening.”

On its own website, the WBC quoted Sulaiman saying: “The WBC has approved unanimously Canelo to fight for the WBC cruiserweight championship of the world."

Smith added: "This is a surprise to me but I’m sure he will continue to make history. Makabu has a mandatory defence signed with Mchunu. I will make immediate communication... they recorded a January date for the fight but their promoter said that he won’t be ready for January 8. I will immediately address this issue.”

Canelo holds the WBA, WBC, IBF and WBO super-middleweight (76kg) belts. Cruiserweight limit is 91kg.

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