Mike Perez secures a rumble in the jungle with major cruiserweight contender

Cork-Cuban cruiserweight Mike Perez [24(15)-3(1)-1] has secured a major fight next month.

It has been announced that ‘The Rebel’ will travel to the famous fight city of Kinshasha where he will face Congolese contender Ilunga Makabu [24(23)-2(2)] for the WBC Silver title.

The fight will take place in the African city on Saturday May 4th and a win for Perez over the home favourite could see him move to near the top of the list for a second shot at the full WBC title.

Perez has risen to #9 in the WBC rankings over the past few months and has now slotted in to take on Makabu after the man who Tony Bellew defeated at Goodison Park to win the title saw fights with Russian banger Dmitry Kudryashov and Nigerian gatekeeper Olanrewaju Durodola fall through.

Now 33, Perez is two years at cruiserweight having transformed from being a heavyweight contender.

He lost in a WBC title challenge in 2017 in Riga following a messy fight with Mairis Briedis in the quarter finals of the inaugural season of the World Boxing Super Series. Acting as a reserve for Season Two, Perez scored a good win over Puerto Rican Keith Tapia last time out.

Since losing to Bellew in 2019 – a fight which came following good wins over Glen Johnson and Thabiso Mchunu – Makubu has fought and won five times, a WBC International title win over Gabonese puncher Taylor Mabika being the pick of these but his level of competition being low.

‘Junior’ has risen to #4 in the WBC rankings and, in theory, the winner next month moves into pole position for a shot at the belt.

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However, the world title picture is somewhat unclear.

With undisputed champion Oleksandr Usyk set to move to heavyweight, the four belts that rest proudly on his waist will be distributed amongst the rest of the 200lbs contenders.

The WBC belt, and the WBO, look set to be on the line in the World Boxing Super Series semi-final in June between current WBC ‘Diamond’ champ Breidis and WBO ‘interim’ holder Krzysztof Glowacki. The WBA belt will be reclaimed by returning champion emeritus Dennis Lebedev who is in talks for a defence versus raw English prospect Lawrence Okolie while the IBF strap will surely be on the line in the other WBSS semi-final between the organisation’s highest-rated contenders Andrew Tabiti and Yunier Dorticos.

This all means that, following the WBSS final towards the end of the year, should it take place, three belts will be unified. The winner of Makabu-Perez has a claim to being mandatory but, with a lot of time to go, a further final eliminator would seem likely.

Regardless of the world title situation, May 4th is another major fight for Perez who will be going into the lion’s den in a city rich in boxing history.

Almost 45 years ago, back when the Democratic Republic of the Congo was still known as Zaire, ‘The Greatest’ Muhammad Ali shocked George Foreman to reclaim the heavyweight title in ‘The Rumble in the Jungle’, perhaps the greatest single sporting event in human history.


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Joe O'Neill

Reporting on Irish boxing the past five years. Work has appeared on irish-boxing.com, Boxing News, the42.ie, and local and national media. Provide live ringside updates, occasional interviews, and special features on the future of Irish boxing. email: joneill6@tcd.ie