The African prince who wants to become the heavyweight king of Scotland is MARTIN BAKOLE. Born of royal descent in the Congo, Bakole left home four years ago to start a new life in the small village of Greengairs, on the outskirts of Airdrie.
There, he progressed to the point that he is now ranked 20th in the world under the watchful eye of renowned trainer Billy Nelson – in a division filled with big names and even bigger boxers. Anthony Joshua is a close friend and frequent sparring partner, while Daniel Dubois and Joe Joyce were both assisted by Bakole to get in the mood for their fights in the gym with strenuous rounds.
Nelson claims Bakole has been “shunned” in recent years, as talkative as his fighter is reserved, robbing the 27-year-old of the ability to fight his way into the upper echelons of the contending heavyweight division. When Bakole steps into the ring for the first time in 2020 to fight Sergey Kuzmin for the WBC International title on the undercard of Joshua’s world title defense against Kubrat Pulev, the wait will come to an end on Saturday.
The Matchroom boxer will be catapulted into competition for bigger battles with a victory and he knows he has to make the most of this moment.
He said, “For a very long time, I have been waiting for this chance. It’s a really big chance for me to show the world what I can do.”
“This year, I want to be considered for major fights. If this battle against Kuzmin can be won, it will really drive me forward.
“Right now, the heavyweight division is very interesting. And in the UK, most of the strongest fighters are here.
My coach says I’m the world champion of the future and I agree with him. In the next few years, I want to get all the belts and we’re working hard for that. I’m not going to settle for being the world’s No. 5 or 6. I’m doing it in order to be No. 1. I’m slowly getting there, but my time will come.
Bakole jokes that, in addition to his adoration for Barcelona, he is now “half Scottish” having been convinced to become a Rangers fan by the bloodthirsty Nelson.
Bakole, who has previously played in Josh Taylor’s undercard at the Hydro, would love to defend his first title in Glasgow since becoming world champion.
For four years now, I have been here and I love it in Scotland. It’s very cold here, but by now, I’ve gotten used to that! They’re good people and I feel relaxed.
“I would love to fight in Glasgow again. I defended my IBO title at the Hydro a few years ago and that was an incredible night with a great atmosphere. So if I become world champion, I would love to defend my title there again. It’s my second home – I feel half Scottish now!”
The other dream he has is to return home to the Congolese capital of Kinshasa for another “Rumble in the Jungle”-style battle, with Joshua in the other corner.
AJ and I spar a lot and we’re good friends, Bakole adds. But he knows that I’m after his belts! That’s what we’re doing. Work is work, so you have to do what you can to excel. I’ve learned a lot from Anthony. He’s a good guy and a very good boxer who always wants to come out and win.
I know that one day, because of his history, AJ wants to fight in Africa, so maybe we could make it happen in Kinshasa. In the Jungle, there will be another Rumble!
The week after my fight, my brother Ilunga is defending his cruiserweight world title there and I know how much that means to him. And hopefully I will one day.
Do the same. It will be an awesome night for me.
Bakole’s royal ancestry expanded with the birth of his son, Michael, this summer. The virus stopped Bakole Jr. from joining him in Scotland, but on his boxing tour, becoming a father gave him extra motivation.
When you become a father, it changes your mindset. Before I was just fighting for myself, but now I’m doing it for my son and my family. I’m so happy to be a father. It’s a pity I don’t get to see him more often, but I always see how he’s doing via video call. I’ve been shopping for Christmas to send home gifts – I’ve bought him some cool little sneakers and a few other stuff.
Boxing is in my blood, so I hope it will remain in the family. If he wants to be a fighter, then I’ll support him, of course. And hopefully, hopefully,
One day, he could become a champion too.