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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Chilemba-Gbenga Preview

Light heavyweight Isaac Chilemba takes on Michael Gbenga at the Turning Stone Resort and Casino in Verona, New York on Saturday. This is Chilemba's first fight since two controversial decisions against Tony Bellew last spring.

Chilemba battled Bellew to a draw in their first fight in March and a unanimous decision loss in their second fight in May. The Jewish Boxing Blog was not the only publication that thought Chilemba deserved the victory both times. Bellew is now scheduled to take on light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson on November 30 on HBO, while Chilemba faces a journeyman in order to get back on the winning track.

Though Gbenga, who was raised in Ghana and now lives in the Washington, D.C. suburb of Gaithersburg, Maryland, is not in Chilemba's class, he's a dangerous opponent. Gbenga is 16-9 and all of his wins have come by knockout. But those 16 KO victims had a combined one win when they faced Gbenga. Nevertheless, Gbenga has a heavy right hand and possesses a lot of power when he sits down on the punch.

Chilemba (20-2-2, 9 KOs) is a slick boxer from South Africa by way of Malawi. He is a slithery defender and is best offensively when he's coming forward. Isaac holds a number of advantages in this fight. At 26, Chilemba is eight years younger. He's two inches taller, has faster hands, and is more skilled in the ring. Gbenga, for his part, has one more fight of experience and his wingspan is four inches longer.

Gbenga is an awkward fighter, but so is Chilemba. Gbenga is awkward because he's often out of control and off balance; Chilemba is awkward precisely because he's in control. The Ghanaian utilizes a wide stance and constantly paws with his jab. He lunges forward with his right at certain moments and cannot box off the back foot. Gbenga's lunges can produce three results: 1) he lands a big right hand, 2) he connects with his head, or 3) he bends at the waste and is forced to hold his opponent around his midsection.

There are two ways Chilemba can attack Gbenga and hurt him. Isaac's hand speed will be a huge advantage. If Chilemba throws quick combinations- something he didn't do against Bellew- and then moves to his right, away from Gbenga's right, and continues to throw, Gbenga won't last long. Chilemba can also throw uppercuts as Gbenga lunges in. Otherwise, Chilemba will likely coast to a comfortable unanimous decision.

Gbenga's best hope is to land a big right hand and knock Chilemba out, but that will be difficult against an athletic defender such as Isaac. Gbenga will need Chilemba to lose focus for a moment. Michael will also want to make it a rough fight by leading with his head and hitting on the break, infractions he has committed repeatedly in recent fights.

Whatever happens, Gbenga will try to win as long as the fight is still going on. After former world champion Andre Dirrell sent Gbenga to the canvas at the end of the first round of their clash in February, Gbenga never went into survival mode and kept throwing punches.

Chilemba-Gbenga is scheduled for eight rounds.

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