Junior Makabu, the first Congolese from the DRC to be world champion in a large boxing federation, is preparing to defend his title. He intends to play this fight in Kinshasa before the end of 2020. For RFI, the king of the light heavyweights of the WBC looks back on the last six months, marked by the Covid-19 pandemic and an imbroglio around a aborted collaboration with promoter Don King. Interview.
RFI : Junior Makabu, you made your return at the end of August in Kinshasa, after several weeks spent away from the DRC due in particular to the Covid-19. What do you feel ?
Junior Makabu : I am happy to be home. It is the country of my ancestors where I returned. It makes me feel good to be in the country and I’m proud to be there. My compatriots are proud, despite the confinement and everything that has happened. God blessed us, we didn’t have many deaths. […]
Was it difficult to be far from DR Congo during this period ?
It was a bit difficult, yes. It was complicated for me, given everything that happened with the coronavirus. Moreover, if it had not been for the coronavirus, I would have already made one or two defenses of my WBC world champion title. But, praise God, there will be a voluntary title defense before the end of 2020. […]
The Covid-19 circulates a lot in South Africa, the country where you live and where you train every day. Have you been able to maintain yourself fairly well in recent weeks ?
Shortly before I left South Africa, the President of the Republic Cyril Ramaphosa reduced the alert level to level 2. He allowed the reopening of gyms, in particular. I trained two or three times before coming to the DRC. I am in good physical condition. There, I am currently in the DRC to work on documents with the president of the Congolese Boxing Federation, my promoter Ilunga Luyoyo, for the preparation of my next fight.
During your last fight, in January 2020, you encountered some difficulties with the company of the very famous fight promoter Don King. The latter claimed to have become your promoter and had tried to prevent the WBC from organizing the World Championship against the Polish Michal Cieslak. Where are you in this file? ?
We had tried to work with Don King’s company, for the commemoration of the fight between Mohamed Ali and George Foreman, under the ” Rumble in the jungle 2 » . We saw it in that context.
I take this opportunity to tell all those who come to speak on behalf of Don King in the DRC or elsewhere that there is no possible collaboration if you do not go through the president of the Congolese Boxing Federation who is my promoter! DK knows exactly what I’m talking about.
My manager Tarik Saadi works hard. […] My promoter Ilunga Luyoyo is there and he is fighting alongside the Congolese Federation and my government.
I prefer to focus on defending my title. I can’t be distracted by this DK thing.
Don King’s company still claims you signed a contract with them, in 2019 ?
So far DK has never attacked us about this contract matter. Gradually, he broke the contract we had signed. For the moment, we have not had any discussions with him on this story.
On the other hand, people come to the DRC to speak on behalf of DK, with the presidency! Nobody can come and do something like that in the Congo, if they haven’t gone through my promoter first! Even DK knows it. […]
I can assure the presidency and everyone that all those who have come and will come to the DRC on behalf of DK are liars. They must go through the Congolese Boxing Federation.
In any case, this affair did not prevent you from confronting and beating Michal Cieslak on January 31, 2020 in Kinshasa. Becoming the first Congolese from the DRC world champion in English boxing, has it changed your life ?
I had a vision before this fight, which many people in Congo had not understood. I had struggled for two years to get there [après une défaite en Championnat du monde face au Britannique Tony Bellew, en mai 2016, NDLR]. Congolese fought, like me, in the country, but without reaching that level.
I thought that, through boxing, my country could be seen differently: not through massacres, wars, diamond or cobalt stories, or politics.
I wanted to sell the image of my country. I managed to bring him to the rank of world number 1 in boxing. It gives me a lot of joy and it pushes me to become stronger, in order to do even better.
The WBC has granted you a voluntary title defense . Concretely, you will not have to wait several months for your challengers to clash with each other to have an opponent. So you can pick one yourself and fight by the end of the year, if all goes well. Is it a relief for you ?
It definitely does me good because it’s been seven months since I came back in the ring. The WBC has granted me this voluntary defense which I must honor here at home. This is one of the reasons why I came to meet the Minister of Sports, as well as the President. We will also talk about the medal of merit that was promised to me.
I take this opportunity to say thank you to President Félix Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo. Because, thanks to him, I am world champion. He put all the batteries in motion so that the World Championship in January 2020 can take place.
I hope my title defense will take place here. In the meantime, I will prepare myself well for this defense. I’m sure I’ll win my next fight, for my country which has been frowned upon for years. I am determined to make my country even more proud.
 The fight between Makabu and Cieslak was the first World Boxing Championship organized in the DRC since the legendary clash between Mohamed Ali and George Foreman in 1974, the famous “ Rumble in the jungle »In Kinshasa of which Don King was the promoter. Makabu and his entourage indicate that they only wanted to collaborate with Don King’s company as part of a commemoration of this defining moment in the history of boxing.
 Without this title defense granted by the WBC, Junior Makabu would have had to wait many months for his main challengers to face each other. Instead, the Congolese will therefore be able to choose an opponent from among the top 15 fighters in his weight class, most notably South African Thabiso Mchunu and Nigerian Olanrewaju Durodola. He should favor a fight in Kinshasa.