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Ilunga Makabu hoping to impress Canelo Alvarez, faces Thabiso Mchunu on Saturday

Canelo Alvarez boxing photo

By Huck Allen: Ilunga Makabu (28-2, 25 KOs) needs to impress this Saturday night in his title defense of his WBC cruiserweight against #1 Thabiso Mchunu (25-3, 13 KOs) to stay in the picture for a fight against Canelo Alvarez on May 7th.

Canelo hasn’t said whether he’s planning to fight Makabu next on May 7th on the Cinco de Mayo holiday weekend. Still, he and his trainer/manager Eddy Reynoso took the time to show up at the WBC’s convention to ask them for permission to go up to cruiserweight to challenge him.

The idea behind Canelo moving up to cruiserweight is to win a fifth division world title. He’s not going to stay in that weight class.

This would be just a one-and-done for the 31-year-old Canelo against Makabu, and then he’ll move back down to 168 or possibly fight at 175.

The 34-year-old Makabu will be defending his WBC title this Saturday, January 39th, against the 33-year-old Mchunu in a rematch at the Packard Music Hall in Warren, Ohio.

Seven years ago, Makabu rallied to stop Mchunu in the eleventh round in May 2015. Since that fight, Mchunu has been up and down, winning seven while losing three. Lately, Mchunu has been winning and will be coming into Saturday’s title fight against WBC champion Makabu with a three-fight winning streak.

Erik Morales says Canelo taking a big risk

“I think it’s a great opportunity for fighters in that weight division,” said boxing great Erik Morales to Fight Hub TV on Canelo, possibly going up to cruiserweight on May 7th.

Canelo Alvarez boxing photo

“He is a world champion in four divisions, and he can be the first Mexican and Latino to be a five division world champion,” Morales continued about Canelo.

I think it’s something good, but super risky, but it will be worth it. Yeah, it’s a big risk. It will be difficult, going up to 200 pounds. Let’s see the terms they agree on for the fight.

“Well, I really couldn’t tell you,” said ‘El Terrible’ Morales when asked if it’s true that Canelo is picking the weakest of the champions at cruiserweight in 34-year-old Makabu instead of the best.

“I don’t know the opponent, and I haven’t seen him fight. He’s a world champion, though, for a reason,” said Morales about Makabu.

It will not be easy for Canelo if Makabu fights to win against him and is letting his hand go. If Makabu fights like he usually does in throwing hard shots and pressuring, the 5’8″ Canelo could lose.

On the other hand, if Makabu fights the way Sergey Kovalev did against Canelo, jabbing and throwing with no power on his shots, the Mexican star can win. It’s unclear why Makabu would fight like that, but it’s possible.

Leonard believes Alvarez has the tools

“He has the tools and the equipment,” said Sugar Ray Leonard when asked if Canelo can fight at cruiserweight. “It’s all up here [brains]. It’s like when I moved up against [light heavyweight] Danny Lalonde. In fact, I just talked to him today.  Donny is here also, and it was a big step up.

“I won the title, but then I gave it up because it was too big, too much for me. He just has to be himself.

“Fight your fight and be smart,” said Leonard on what Canelo must do to succeed at cruiserweight. “In boxing, anything can happen, and I say to both guys, good luck,” said Leonard.

The size of Makabu will be the biggest problem for Canelo because he’s small, and he looked slow when he bulked up to fight at 175 in 2019.

If Canelo can negotiate a catchweight with Makabu needing to come down to 190 for the fight, he’s got a good chance of winning. The rehydration limit would also work for Canelo to weaken Makabu enough for him to win.

That will be a double whammy for Makabu if he has to deal a 190-lb catchweight as well as a rehydration limit keeping him from gaining weight back.

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