Don’t Look Bak: Avoided Martin Bakole is finally calling his own shots

WHEN Martin Bakole travelled to Paris, France last May to emphatically shatter the unbeaten record of 2016 Olympic champion Tony Yoka, any post-fight jubilation was tempered somewhat by the realisation that that the whole world now knew the extent of his danger.

If, in other words, he was hard to match before, and he was, Bakole, in thrashing Yoka, knew it would now be almost impossible to attract the kind of heavyweight opponents needed to secure the kind of life-changing paydays he had for years been pursuing.

And so it proved, too, with Bakole inactive since beating Yoka and, worse than that, a name rarely mentioned in a division famous for its fighters calling out one another to build momentum ahead of a potential fight.

All Bakole has ever wanted, according to his trainer and manager, Billy Nelson, is an open door and an opportunity to shine. He got this in Paris last May and now, having just signed a deal with Boxxer and Sky Sports, another door has opened for a man accustomed to seeing them closed in his face.

“He has been massively overlooked for years,” Nelson said to Boxing News. “We’re thrilled to be part of Boxxer and the Sky platform. It’s one of the biggest in the world.

“I want to thank Ben Shalom and John Wischhusen for their support and for believing in Martin. They could have invested their money in other boxers in England, but they’ve chosen to invest a lot of money in Martin Bakole. They have the same belief that I do that Martin Bakole will win a world heavyweight title – and probably this year.”

While that may sound farfetched, consider this: Nelson, Bakole’s number one supporter, has been saying it for years and stressing that all his man requires is the opportunity. Not only that, with Bakole currently ranked at two by the World Boxing Association (WBA), there is every chance he is on a collision course with Daniel Dubois, the WBA “regular” belt-holder.

“With Martin having such a high ranking with the WBA, I fully expect a warm-up fight and then either a final eliminator to be called or a straight shot at Daniel Dubois,” Nelson said. “If that was offered to us now, we’d take it in a heartbeat. He is ready to fight anybody.

“They’ve sparred many, many times and Daniel Dubois will tell you all about the danger of Martin Bakole. Martin beats Daniel Dubois in every single department and Daniel Dubois knows it as well.

“He will at some point have to either fight him or give up the title. But giving up the title wouldn’t be a good look. Put yourself in Daniel’s shoes. If you gave up the title, how long would it take him to get back in that position? I mean, he was gifted the title in the first place. Let’s not beat around the bush. He got beaten by Joe Joyce and then he fights to become number one with the WBA. That’s great work by his management team and promoter, but fighting Trevor Bryant for a vacant title… goodness me.”

Bakole dominates Yoka (FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images)

The plan at this stage is for Bakole, 18-1 (13), to have a tune-up fight in April before working his way towards a WBA eliminator in June. For Nelson, delighted to just have a plan, the big upside to now being aligned with both Boxxer and the WBA is that Bakole is for once being guided towards his destiny rather than having to rely on either good fortune or the goodwill of others. Patience, it seems, is starting to pay off.

“We’ve had many opportunities and contract offers from promoters but we took our time and wanted to get it right,” said Nelson. “We could have had a few fights by now – we could have fought Michael Hunter, who refused the fight a couple of times – and we should have been fighting on March 4 but unfortunately Josh Taylor (the show’s headliner) got injured.

“To be perfectly blunt, it’s been a nightmare getting him opponents. Why do none, and I mean none, of the British guys call him out? It’s because they’ve all sparred him.”

Again, as with the Yoka win in May, one could argue Bakole’s issues have as much to do with a growing awareness of his danger as anything else. The key to a boxer’s success, after all, is often more about who they avoid fighting than who they choose to fight and, furthermore, it becomes all the easier to avoid a fighter like Martin Bakole if the decision is a collective one; one that will, in time, reduce the dangerman to anonymity.

“He’ll fight anybody but the business side of it has got to be right for Martin,” said Nelson. “We were supposed to fight Hrgovic a couple of times but I know what they offered and we got more than double that for fighting Yoka. Who would you fight?

“It’s got to make financial sense. I’m here to guide Martin as his manager and make him as much money as possible. This deal we’ve got with Sky, we’re over the moon with it. He deserves it. He’s a hard-working, clean-living family man who has moved thousands of miles from home to live in a wee shitty village in Scotland.

“Remember, too, that Martin has only had 31 fights in his life. It’s frightening what he has achieved in that number of fights. Oleksandr Usyk, for example, while a great fighter, has had 300-odd amateur fights.

“Martin will fight him any time, by the way. Martin hurt him in sparring. Martin will fight anybody.”

Now, with a platform and a spotlight befitting his talent, Martin Bakole, at 29, at last finds himself in a position to call a few shots. Better yet, he will be both seen and heard, which, for the rest of the heavyweight division, so keen for him to be consigned to the shadows, is bad news indeed.

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