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Martin Bakole: ‘Tyson Fury is the only boxer who can give me good sparring’

Exclusive interview: The Congolese, who believes he is boxing’s most avoided heavyweight, aims to take his anger out on Carlos Takam on the Fury-Ngannou undercard

Alex Pattle
Combat Sports Correspondent
Friday 27 October 2023 07:47 BST
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Martin Bakole is angry. Frankly, that may be an understatement. In Bakole’s eyes, he is the most avoided man in the heavyweight division, and the worry for Carlos Takam is that he may have to absorb that anger on Saturday.

Before Tyson Fury’s bewildering bout with Francis Ngannou plays out among the dunes of Saudi Arabia, Bakole and Takam will meet in a more traditional heavyweight clash – and one that Bakole intends to mark with a breakout performance. Perhaps with that, he can make up for the ‘mistake’ that has defined his professional career in recent years.

“The only mistake I made, and even my coaches are telling me, is that they allowed me to spar these top guys,” Bakole tells The Independent. “These guys know they don’t belong where they are now, because if I stand with them, I give them problems. I only show them three or four punches, because I’m coming to help them; but even in helping them, I’m giving them problems. I’m a machine in there, throwing as many punches as I can. I don’t get tired, I keep coming.”

Of one argument with a high-profile, highly-ranked heavyweight, Bakole says: “If they post the [sparring] video, you will see for yourself. I’m not allowed to record video. The only reason I was going to share it was to show the world how they’re avoiding me.

“If you ask them today, none of them will say they’ll fight Martin Bakole. We’re killing boxing, we need to stop this. I’ve been living in the UK for five years now, people know who Martin Bakole is. I’m fighting every day for my ranking; why not them?”

Bakole’s ranking, as it stands, is No 2 in the WBA top 10. The only men above him are No 1 contender Deontay Wilder – the former WBC champion – and unified title holder Oleksandr Usyk. Yet it is the reigning WBC champion, Fury, whom Bakole identifies as the only man on his level.

“He’s the only man where we shared a ring and it was 50-50,” says the 30-year-old Congolese, now based outside of Glasgow, whose record stands at 19-1 (14 knockouts). “When we spar, everyone in the gym is quiet, focused, watching us. I give him a fight, he gives me a fight back, and I always learn a lot. Every time he calls me, I always go. I don’t know if I’ll meet him one day in the ring; all I know is he’s the only one who can give me good sparring, because we keep coming forward and stand and fight like Muhammad Ali and George Foreman.”

Bakole during a stoppage win against Rodney Hernandez (Getty Images)

The pair have been helping one another ahead of Saturday’s crossover event in Riyadh, where Fury boxes ex-UFC champion Ngannou and where the Briton is contracted to fight Usyk next. Bakole, however, has mixed feelings on both of Fury’s impending fights.

“Boxing is a business now,” he says matter-of-factly. “If you’re watching the top 10, Tyson hasn’t fought everyone. He fought some good guys, he beat Deontay Wilder, but to pick Ngannou from MMA... I was not happy with that. But it is what it is. It’s about money, now people don’t care about boxing. I was happy to see him sign the contract to fight Usyk, because that’s what we’ve been waiting for.” Not, however, in the way that fans have been waiting. “We,” meaning boxers, “want the belts, we want four champions; we can’t just sit and get old with one man holding all the belts. The winner must give up some belts, so that we can fight each other.”

23 December is one of the mooted dates for Fury vs Usyk, and Bakole trusts his sparring partner to be able to turn around in time, also backing the “Gypsy King” to make light work of Ngannou. “Tyson knows what he’s doing. Maybe he’ll stop Ngannou early, that’s the only reason I can think why he signed the contract [to box Usyk]. He will not play with Ngannou, I don’t see Ngannou surviving a round with Fury. Easy money, then go and work hard for Usyk, because it’s a tough, 12-round fight.”

Bakole at his open workout ahead of his fight with Carlos Takam this weekend (Getty Images)

Bakole will also be hoping that his money comes easy on Saturday. “I’ll be giving everything,” he says, “because Takam is coming to take my place. He’s an old man,” in boxing at least, at 42, “but he’s tough and fit! So, everything is on the line for me. I don’t think it’ll go past five or six rounds. I’m going to stop him. It’s a massive [turning point]. This is a big opportunity to get people making noise and saying, ‘We want to see Martin against him, or him.’

“Once the fans start asking boxers to fight me, I don’t think they’ll be avoiding me. There will be money in it.”

Until then, there is money in Saudi, there is money in Fury, and that is a perfect combination for Bakole’s fight this weekend.

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