Although having previously held WBO, WBU and IBO world titles and currently in possession of the WBC International super flyweight title, Hawk Makepula showed on Friday night that he’s still prepared to develop his skills while waiting for his shot at the big leagues.

Makepula (27-3, 18 KOs) stopped Filipino Jun Talape (11-4, 6 KOs) in the 6th round at the Graceland Casino in Mpumulanga in defense of his WBC crown in a fight which, although not enthralling, was a good example of how to chop a lesser experienced man to the canvas.

A very religious man, Makepula made his traditional entrance by singing along to a gospel track. His eyes in a trance and his face wet from perspiration, he looks to be feeling every word he sings as he leads his fans in song and sweeps himself into a zone ready for combat. The impression he created is that he doesn’t enter the ring alone and certainly this could be intimidating for opposition.

First round was the usual feeling out process with Makepula measuring his man with his left jab. Tulape understandably looked a little nervous while the butterflies took their time to settle. The more experienced Makepula was comfortable from the outset, but watched his opponent closely to ensure that there were no surprises.

The pace picked up slightly in the second with Tulape looking more settled, but carrying his hands high to block Makepula’s blows. Although Makepula has fine boxing skills it was clear that he intended fighting this one at a slower pace and overpowering his younger opponent.

The champion backed his man off in the third and landed some crisp blows to his head. He also used good combinations alternating body shots to the head and back to the body. The challenger snuck a few clean shots through at the close of the round, but they had no effect on Makepula.

The men remained at close quarters in the fourth and Makepula continued to alternate his attack between the body and the head. He used the left jab to pry open his challenger’s defense, landed some big rights to his head and then dropped a big left to his abdomen. Tulape possesses a good quick uppercut, but he was unable to land it on Makepula, who doesn’t take his eyes off his prey for an instant.

Talape, like most Filipino fighters, showed good heart and commitment with fine skills, but missed that little ingredient of experience at the higher levels. It was clear that he and his corner were uncertain of how to deal with constantly being attacked on two fronts. When his hands came down, he was bombed in the face and when he lifted them his body received a pounding. He did stand his ground, however, and came forward even when under fire.

In the fifth round Talape tried to change his strategy by adding some zip to his footwork and it did pay off as it was one of his best rounds. He moved fleetly and landed some solid blows of his own. But Makepula remained focused and continued to use power in every blow he threw. He was intent on squashing his opponent, who is 7 years his junior. This fight was not about putting on a boxing display and taking a points win. He was intent of winning by stoppage in hopes that it would help land him the title opportunity he so craves.

Round six saw the champion back Talape into a corner where he let rip with some powerful shots. A beautifully executed left hook exploded on the left side of the challenger’s stomach and he went crashing down to the canvas. He was visibly in pain and remained down even after the referee had given him the full count. Blood flowed freely from a cut to Makepula’s left eye at the time of stoppage at 1:41 of the round.

As Talape lay writhing in pain, Makepula first went down on his knees in his corner to thank his Maker and then stood up and acknowledged his cheering fans at ringside. Makepula has a gentle calmness about him and does exude an aura of happiness and peace.

“He’s young and clever,” said Makepula after the fight, “but I knew I’d catch him. I saw that he didn’t like the body blows so decided I would focus on it and punish the body. I knew he’d fall in the later rounds.”

“Work the body and the head will fall,” says Makepula’s trainer Nic Durand. “Many boxers forget about that aspect of the fight game. I was recently reminded of this when one of my boxers was stopped by a similar blow in Namibia and decided I need to get all my boxers working on the body again.”

Now 32 years old, Makepula is overdue for another crack at a credible title. He lost a very controversial points decision to Irene Pacheco in a bid to claim the IBF flyweight crown in 2000. With some ringsiders calling the decision a mugging, one would have thought that another crack would have been imminent, but the man was forced to go other routes and we can only hope his shot comes before he’s too old to make the best of it.

The Hawk has always held the promise of being able to soar higher than most, but if he is to fly to those heights he needs to be given the skies to fly in. He is a well-rounded boxer and perhaps readier now than he has ever been. He does enjoy a top-ten rating in the major sanctioning bodies, so it’s basically up to the television networks and promoters to make it happen.

“We don’t want to fight the little Filipinos and Mexicans anymore,” says Durand. “We want Fernando Montiel and guys of that caliber, before it’s too late.

On the undercard another youngster showed some potential in the super middleweight division. Isak Chilembe, in only his second fight, stopped Oupa Mahlangu in 4 rounds. Although Mahlangu, who dropped to 4-6 with this loss, is no great shakes, Chilembu looked the more experienced of the two. It’s too early to tell if Chilembu will develop further, but he has the build and the enthusiasm for the division and it’s at least heartening to see a new super middleweight coming to the fray.