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Bakole, Congo Royalty Fighting To Dethrone Anthony Joshua As Heavyweight king

MARTIN BAKOLE ILUNGA is the African prince fighting to dethrone heavyweight king and friend Anthony Joshua.

The son of the ruler of the Kananga province in the Congo has boxing and Irn Bru running through his royal blood after moving to Scotland to chase his dreams

When big brother Ilunga Makabu came to Goodison Park in 2016 to take on Tony Bellew, Bakole came along and stayed in the UK before quickly becoming AJ’s favourite sparring partner.

Now based in Aidrie, the softly spoken 6ft 6in star has an 11-0 record and has been the go-to-guy for hard rounds when Joshua has prepared for Carlos Takam and Alexander Povetkin.

This Saturday he travels south of the border to fight at London’s York Hall and explains to SunSport how he is adapting to life in North Lanarkshire.

Bakole said: “I am used to the Irn Bru and sausages now but thankfully I have found some small markets where I can find Congolese food. The cold I will never really get used to but I can deal with it.”

At least his career is hotting up. But a fearsome reputation and lack of home-city support are a bad blend for a fighter’s early career and Bakole has found it hard to get fights.

Not many heavyweights fancy taking on the risk so Michael Hunter – whose only pro defeat in his 15 fights was handed out by undisputed cruiserweight king Oleksandr Usyk in 2017 – has been flown in from LA.

Channel 5 will show the fight and the terrestrial screening should get the casual boxing fan as excited as the millions glued to their screens back in Africa supporting their travelling brother.

Heavyweight Martin Bakole has 11 wins from 11 fights

Bakole, 26, said: “Channel 5 work with Star Times, a big TV company in Africa so all my fans in the Congo get to see me fight.

“I know when I am on live TV everyone is watching me at home, in cafes and bars.

“They all make plans and meet up to watch the fight together and when I get to go home they treat me like a king.”It gives me so much extra motivation to do well for my family and for them.”

Michael Hunter, left, went 12 rounds with Oleksandr Usyk in 2017

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Bakole stands at 6ft 6in and packs a serious punch

And, in a huge profile boost, Britain’s heavyweight king sees Congolese prince Bakole as an equal.

In August the WBA, IBF and WBO mega-star shared a picture of the pair after some gruelling rounds and labelled Bakole a future champ.

The battling pair have swapped numbers and they are friends outside the ring.

But it is an unspoken fact that AJ has three of the four major belts that Bakole has his eyes on.

And Bakole knows how quickly the practice sessions could turn into a title clash after watching the student-teacher relationship AJ had with Wladimir Klitschko turn violent last year.

He said: “My vision is to be a world champion.

“Today Joshua is a world champion. Who knows what happens tomorrow. It just takes time, it’s all timing.

“When Klitschko was sparring AJ all them years ago I don’t think he thought he would ever have boxed him for the titles years later.

“Today he is the champion but tomorrow I could be the challenger and I know everything about him now.

“Boxing is a business so I would like to fight him some time, if it comes my way I could never refuse it.”

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