CONGOLESE heavyweight Martin Bakole will take a key step up when he fights American Michael Hunter at York Hall on Saturday (October 13).

Hunter is an Olympian and lost a world cruiserweight title fight to Oleksandr Usyk last year. “I’m ready for anybody,” Bakole said. “I’m not going to play, he’s not coming to play… It’s a serious and nice and a good fight for me. A high level and a big step for me. Because he’s a good boxer, he boxed this guy in cruiserweight.

“But I don’t think I’ll take him to points. This is my job. I’m not going to play. A knockout is a knockout. Points or knockout I’ll beat him.”

A long journey has brought Bakole to this fight in London. His father is the king of a province in the Congo. He grew up with boxing, spending his amateur career in the capital, Kinshasa. He began his professional career in South Africa and currently he trains with Billy Nelson in Scotland.

He came to the UK when his brother Junior Makabu fought Tony Bellew for the WBC cruiserweight title. Martin went to Scotland to spar with cruiserweight Stephen Simmons. There he bonded with Billy Nelson. “Billy saw I had talent and said anytime I needed help, any time I wanted to talk to him there’s his number,” Martin said. Eventually he sorted out a visa so that he could train with Nelson in Scotland and box in the UK.

“I’m learning a lot, me and Billy. We understand each other. It’s nice. Before I was having problems with English, now I’m getting better. The relationship between me and him is nice,” he continued.

He’s even enjoying Scotland. “It’s just cold, home is hot and Scotland is cold. But it’s quiet. I like quiet. Nice people, the difference is just cold,” Bakole smiled.

He has been getting all the sparring he can. “When I was sparring people, I came here, I’m not from here, I’m not born here, I just came here from Africa and people didn’t know me. I used to spar other people but when they realised I was good they started to refuse to spar me any more,” he noted.

But that changed when he began spending time in the gym in Sheffield with unified heavyweight champion of the world, Anthony Joshua. “It’s good sparring, when the spar is boiling you can even pay good money to watch it. It’s very nice for me and for him too because it’s good work. So we spar serious sparring,” Martin said softly. “Maybe the first time we sparred, he realised I was good, so he won’t show me everything [he can do]. And me too, when I spar him, I’m not going down to show him everything because maybe tomorrow… He was sparring Klitschko and he was surprised that he was going to fight Joshua. He had a big surprise.”

Martin Bakole vs Michael Hunter

Bakole added, “Sparring is not a fight. Sparring is just to push yourself, to work, to be fit, the fight is another story. Maybe he’s keeping some things from me and me too, I’m keep some things from him. Because maybe we can meet tomorrow. But it’s good sparring for me and him, very good.

“I have my vision. I want to be world champion. To be world champion you have to be in the UK or America. There are a lot of people [at heavyweight]. Today I’m sparring Anthony Joshua but if I was in South Africa I would not get the chance. That’s why I decided to move here. So my vision could one day be a reality.”