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Ilunga Makabu-Aleksei Papin joins Sergey Kovalev-Anthony Yarde on August 24th

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Makabu is the WBC’s highest-ranked cruiserweight contender

Boxing show in Yekaterinburg, Russia Photo by Donat Sorokin\TASS via Getty Images

Sergey Kovalev vs. Anthony Yarde won’t be the only clash of knockout artists in Chelyabinsk, Russia on August 24th. The WBC announced today that top-ranked cruiserweight contender Ilunga Makabu will face undefeated Aleksei Papin in the first defense of the former’s “silver” title, confirming a Russian report from earlier this month.

Makabu (24-2, 23 KO), whose only trip to the judges was a majority decision over Dmytro Kucher in 2013, floored Tony Bellew early in a 2016 bid for said WBC belt before succumbing to a comeback TKO in the third. He’s since won six straight, most recently out-slugging Dmitry Kudryashov in a five-round war last month.

I gotta say, a two-month turnaround after something like that? Ballsy as hell and I love it.

Papin (11-0, 10 KO) enjoyed a strong kickboxing career, capped off with a decision over world-ranked veteran Danyo Ilunga, before transitioning to boxing in 2015. He’s faced reasonably stiff competition so far, but is certainly taking a step up. He was last seen knocking out Alexandru Jur on that same Makabu-Kudryashov card.

Presumably, whoever wins this will be the next WBC mandatory challenger, though it may be a while before he gets a shot at the belt. The currently vacant title, formerly held by Oleksandr Usyk, will be on the line when Mairis Briedis faces Yuniel Dorticos in the WBSS tournament finals later this year. Whoever wins that, however, has to then fight Krzysztof Glowacki within 120 days as part of a WBO/WBSS ruling to make up for Glowacki’s fustercluck of a semifinal with Briedis.