Billy Nelson, trainer of Martin Bakole, talks Mariusz Wach, Dereck Chisora and more, to Danny Flexen
When Martin Bakole surprisingly lost his unbeaten record to Michael Hunter back in October, the criticism came from far and wide. The Aidrie-based Congolese was derided for a lack of speed and variety en route to a stoppage in the 10th and final round of a one-sided setback, while trainer Billy Nelson took some flack for encouraging his man to go back out in the later sessions despite an injured shoulder. Now, following a hugely impressive eight-round destruction of local hero Mariusz Wach in Katowice, Poland last Saturday, Bakole is a heavyweight redeemed and Nelson wants him to face a fighter like Dereck Chisora next.
“Anyone who watched Martin against Hunter then against Wach would say he looked a different fighter,” Nelson told me. “I’ve always said he is a multi-talented boxer and I had no doubt he would go to Poland and beat Wach; stopping him, and quicker than Alexander Povetkin and Jarrell Miller, was a bonus.
“Against Hunter, it was definitely a mental issue. He received a phone call shortly before the fight with some devastating news regarding a family member and he was just in a place he didn’t want to be in.
“Anyone in boxing will tell you I did the right thing sending him out. He had a shoulder injury but it wasn’t serious and when he was saying ‘Please, my shoulder…’ he was talking about me popping the shoulder back in place.
“We changed a few things ahead of the Wach fight, including him not eating between the weigh-in and the fight. That’s gone out the window now but maybe the most important thing is that he didn’t have access to his phone right before the fight.”
In today’s fractured heavyweight climate, a talented big man is never too far away from a marquee fight. Bakole is only 26, 12-1 (9) and has just scored his first victory that went beyond the sixth round. He was ahead by a point on two cards at the time of the stoppage and losing by the same margin on the third, so looked on course to get the unlikely verdict on the MB Promotions show in Poland. There is surely still improvement to come and Nelson believes his man is ready for a small step up next time out.
“Someone like Dereck Chisora or Carlos Takam,” Nelson suggested, although Takam faces Oleksandr Usyk next month, while Chisora gets a more winnable test in Senad Gashi on April 20. “We’ve sparred Chisora twice but recently we got a call asking us to come down and spar him, then that offer was rescinded later that same night, ‘He’s too big’. Maybe what happened in the previous sparring convinced them to not do it again.
“I was shocked Chisora recently moved to Dave Coldwell as his new trainer. No disrespect to Dave, just that Dereck had spent the vast majority of his career with Don Charles. I think someone has been in his ear.”
Bakole too has someone in his ear – Nelson, as trainer and fighter never gave up on each other. The journey undertaken by the Southend-born, Scottish trainer/manager and his Congolese charge is, it appears, still gaining speed.