Boxing: Congolese Martin Bakole new WBA heavyweight world number one

In the latest rankings published by the WBA, the World Boxing Association, Martin Bakole appears as the world number one heavyweight. A first for an African boxer that could offer the native of Kananga (Democratic Republic of Congo) the opportunity to compete for a world championship title.

Congolese boxer Martin Bakole in May 2022. AFP - ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT

By: RFI Follow


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After five years at number two in the WBA heavyweight rankings, Martin Bakole has finally risen to number one in the rankings of one of the world's four major boxing federations. A milestone for the Congolese boxer but also for an entire continent since he thus becomes the first African to occupy this first place in the heavyweight category. He thus dethroned England's Anthony Joshua, while New Zealand's Joseph Parker was third in the rankings.

Long in the shadows, Martin Bakole revealed himself to the general public by beating the Frenchman Tony Yoka in May 2022, who has not won since. Last November in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, the Congolese made short work of another Frenchman, Carlos Takam, forcing the referee to stop the fight in the fourth round.

Confined at the beginning of his career to a sparring partner role, notably with Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua, Martin Bakole turned pro in 2014 at the age of 21. Under the orders of Billy Nelson, with whom he trains in Scotland, the pugilist has fought 23 fights: 22 victories, including 14 by knockout, and one defeat.

A fight for the world title soon?

An impressive record that did not give him the opportunity to fight for the title of world champion, which could soon change with this new world number one position. No title holder has yet wanted to face the Congolese, notably for marketing reasons but also for fear of facing the 1m98 and 120 kg colossus according to his coach who described him in 2020 as the "most avoided heavy weight on the planet". "Boxers are smart. They know. When he bullies someone in sparring, the guy goes home and thinks he has no interest in fighting him," Billy Nelson explained in an interview with The Sun.

Read alsoMartin Bakole: "Tony Yoka is a good boxer but I'm better than him"

It will therefore now be difficult for promoters to ignore the new world number one heavyweight when the question of organising a fight for the WBA world title, held for the moment by the German of Syrian origin, Mahmoud Charr, arises.

Pride of the DRC

In any case, this new status is a source of pride for the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Singer Gims, for example, immediately shared the new WBA rankings on his Instagram account to congratulate Martin Bakole, reports our correspondent in Kinshasa, Pascal Mwangala.

For Mons Monsheju, a journalist with Kinshasa-based television station Canal Mercure, the world's number one position is not really a surprise. "I'm not very surprised. Bakole is a great and very good boxer who is progressing a little more every day. Now it's the title and big fight he wants. I think this position will help him, in any case, to achieve that," he said.

David Tshama, known as "Coeur de lion", African ABU boxing champion in the middleweight category, sees this as a new source of motivation for Martin Bakole. "I think it's the pinnacle of what a boxer can dream of. It's a source of pride first and foremost for us, Congolese boxers. He pushes us, who are his fans, to go even further and also to try to be, perhaps, the third person to reach this international level, and to be perhaps first in the rankings of the federations," concludes the boxer.

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