Although the Boxing schedule since the beginning of 2022 has been sporadic due in part to the ongoing global COVID-19 epidemic and several postponements of several Boxing cards outside of the United States due to several countries issuing restrictions in an effort to combat the latest surge of the virus and it’s latest Omnicon variant. The end of January 2022 however, will be highlighted by two separate cards on Saturday, January29th promoted by rival Hall of Fame promoters Don King and Bob Arum.
In some ways, this is a scenario that brings Boxing back to a previous era where Arum and King would go head to head on competing platforms as each at one time or another held claim as the top promoter in the sport. Now, in 2022, both Arum and King, each at the age of ninety are each still going strong and will be promoting two interesting cards that are each compelling for their own reasons.
First, Don King will present a seven bout card that can be seen on FITE Pay-Per-View from the Packard Music Hall in Warren, OH. In the main event WBC Cruiserweight world champion Ilunga Makabu will make the second defense of his world title against WBC number one rated Cruiserweight contender Thabiso Mchunu. A rematch from a bout in May 2015 when the then contender Makabu knocked out Mchunu in eleven rounds. Beyond this fight being a case that can be simply defined as a world champion facing the mandatory number one contender in the organization in which they hold a world title, for Makabu, this fight has added significance as he has been named as a potential opponent for current Undisputed Super-Middleweight world champion Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. While obviously a fight with Alvarez, who would move up two weight classes from the 168lb. Super-Middleweight division to the 190lb. Cruiserweight division to challenge Makabu, would garner significant attention due to Alvarez’ standing as arguably the number one marquee draw in the sport, obviously, the current WBC Cruiserweight champion will need to take care of matters against Mchunu before any potential bout with Alvarez could be negotiated.
Although this is a fight between two of the top Cruiserweights in the world, it is also arguable that this bout between Makabu and Mchunu has gained considerable attention due to the possibility of a fight with Alvarez looming ahead for Makabu, should he successfully defend his championship. In terms of what to expect when Makabu and Mchunu face off, Makabu is an offensive-minded fighter who has scored twenty-five knockouts in his twenty eight career wins. The champion has shown in his career that he has a good power, particularly in his left hook as well as a willingness to engage in exchanges of offense with his opponents. While this indicates the possibility for an entertaining bout for the Boxing fan, it can also leave the champion vulnerable and he was stopped in his two career losses, which is something to keep in mind. Makabu has been undefeated since losing in his first world title shot when he lost to Tony Bellew in 2016 for what was then the vacant WBC championship in the Cruiserweight division. Since that bout, Makabu has been unbeaten in nine bouts in which he has scored knockouts in seven of those bouts.
Standing across the ring from Makabu will be Thabiso Mchunu. Mchunu, a fighter with twenty-eight career bouts to his credit will enter the bout with a record of 23-5, with 13 Knockouts. The challenger is a boxer/puncher, who one might assume will be looking to extend Makabu into the middle and late rounds of this fight if he can. Mchunu has won four straight bouts coming into this bout in what will be his second attempt at a world championship after previously being stopped by undefeated former Undisputed Cruiserweight world champion Oleksandr Usyk in December 2016, when the current unified Heavyweight world champion made a successful defense of his WBO Cruiserweight crown in stopping Mchunu in nine rounds. Although both Makabu and Mchunu are not particularly well-known here in the United States, they are two world-class fighters and it will be interesting to see if they will be able to take advantage of the increased exposure here and also if the winner of this bout will be able to secure what will likely be the most lucrative payday of their career by potentially fighting Alvarez.
The co-main event of this card will see undefeated top Heavyweight contender Trevor Bryan face undefeated contender Jonathan Guidry in a bout scheduled for twelve rounds. Bryan, who currently holds interim/regular champion status in the World Boxing Association’s (WBA) Heavyweight ratings, has had several on again, off again agreements to fight longtime contender Manuel Charr, who at one point also held an interim/regular designation in the WBA ratings. While that fight for whatever reason has not materialized, Bryan will be returning to the ring for the first time in exactly one year to face the unbeaten Guidry. In his last bout, Bryan stopped former WBC Heavyweight world champion Bermane Stiverne in eleven rounds in Hollywood, FL. Bryan will enter this bout unbeaten with a record of 21-0, with 15 Knockouts.
While this in reality is a fight where Bryan will look to make a strong argument for himself as a potential opponent for the winner of the upcoming rematch between undefeated unified IBF/WBA/WBO/IBO Heavyweight world champion Oleksandr Usyk and former two-time champion Anthony Joshua, he faces a bit of the unknown against Guidry, who is currently rated number thirteen in the world by the WBA in the Heavyweight division.
Like Bryan, Guidry is unbeaten in his career and will enter the bout with a record of 17-0-2, with 10 Knockouts. Guidry has yet to face a notable opponent in his career and therein lies the element of the unknown as a big question that surrounds this fight will be what Guidry will have to offer. Although Bryan is likely to be viewed as a favorite going into this encounter, it will be interesting to see how Guidry responds to this, his first notable fight against a top contender and if he does perform well win or lose if his current standing in the top fifteen of the WBA’s Heavyweight contenders will be elevated after this fight.
While the Makabu-Mchunu rematch and Bryan-Guidry bouts will co-headline a pay-per-view card, Bob Arum will stage a Boxing card at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Tulsa, OK. In the main event of this card, which can be seen here in the United States on digital subscription-based sports streaming network ESPN+, a battle of top Jr. Lightweight contenders current WBC number four rated contender Robson Conceicao will face undefeated WBA number four rated contender Xavier Martinez in a bout scheduled for ten rounds. This arguably pits two fighters at very similar stages in their respective careers against each other and is a bout between two boxer/punchers who can do a bit of everything. Conceicao will be looking to rebound in this fight after suffering his only career defeat in his last bout in a failed challenge of WBC Jr. Lightweight world champion Oscar Valdez in September of last year in which he lost a twelve round unanimous decision.
Conceicao, who will enter this bout with a record of 16-1, with 8 Knockouts may have come out on the short end that evening against one of the best fighters in the world in Valdez, but he did give a good account of himself in defeat. Although this may have an appearance to some as what is sometimes referred to within the sport as a “Comeback Fight” fight Conceicao, he will be facing another top contender in his first bout coming off that loss in Xavier Martinez.
Some might say that Martinez, who will enter this bout unbeaten with a record of 17-0, with 11 Knockouts, is in a similar position as Conceicao was before he faced Valdez in that though he is highly ranked, there is still somewhat of the unknown as far as how good Martinez might be. In fairness, in his last two bouts, Martinez did score victories over notable contenders and former world title challengers Claudio Marrero and Juan Carlos Burgos. One might argue by now facing a third consecutive former world title challenger in Conceicao, that if Martinez were to win this fight that his next bout might be a challenge of one of the world champions in the 130lb. Jr. Lightweight division. While there are similarities between the two fighters in terms of their records, respective rankings, as well as their Boxing styles, this fight may come down to who is able to get an advantage on the other and whether or not they will be able to maintain that advantage for the duration of the fight. An interesting battle between one fighter looking for his opportunity at a world championship going against another fighter looking for a second chance.
While January 29th will be a throwback evening of Boxing for many as two legendary promoters pit their respective cards against each other on competing streaming platforms in a scenario that is not unlike how things were for decades between Bob Arum and Don King on across cable/satellite networks and pay-per-view, the rivalry between the two continues and though the landscape of both technology as well as the sport of Boxing as a whole has definitely changed, we will see what this next chapter in that promotional rivalry has to offer.
“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”
Makabu vs. Mchunu takes place on Saturday, January 29th at Packard Music Hall in Warren, OH. The card can be seen globally on FITE Pay-Per-View beginning at 8PM ET/5PM PT for $49.99. The FITE app is available on mobile, tablet, connected streaming devices, and Smart TVs. For more information about FITE please visit: www.FITE.TV. To order Makabu vs. Mchunu download the FITE app or Click Here.
Conceicao vs. Martinez takes place on Saturday, January 29th at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Tulsa, OK. The fight as well as it’s full undercard can be seen in the United States on digital subscription-based sports streaming network ESPN+ beginning at 5:55PM ET/2:55PM PT. ESPN+ is available through the ESPN app on mobile, tablet, connected streaming devices and Smart TVs. For more information about ESPN+ including schedules, list of compatible streaming devices/platforms/Smart TVs, and to subscribe please visit: www.ESPNPlus.com. Check your local listings internationally.
The Boxing Truth® is a registered trademark of Beau Denison All Rights Reserved.
Beau Denison on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Beau_Denison