A moment of self reflection forced Blake Caparello to reevaluate his career trajectory.
Riding a four-fight win streak against modest oppositon dating back to 2016, the former world title challenger hit a personal crossroads. Rated by all four sanctioning bodies, but with no worthwhile opportunities on the immediate horizon, Caparello (26-2-1, 10 KOs) had to make a choice.
“The last three or four fights I felt that I have been climbing back up and getting back into the swing of things,” said Caparello in an interview with Aus-Boxing. “At the end of last year I sat down with my team and we asked ourselves, ‘What are we going to do? Keep slowly climbing up and waste time? Or believe in ourselves and take a tough fight?’ Which is what we’ve done,”
The Melburnian will face fellow former world title challenger and perennial contender Isaac Chilemba on Friday night for the vacant WBC International light heavyweight title. However, the outcome of their high-stakes regional title fight has consequences far greater than the belt on offer, with the immediate world title ambitions of both fighters hanging in the balance.
To Caparello’s credit, he’s chosen a formidable dance partner in the shape of Chilemba (24-5-2, 10 KOs). The Malawian is best known for being one of only six men to have gone the distance with light heavyweight ruler Sergey Kovalev, who ironically owns a stoppage victory over Caparello.
“He’s a tough guy, everyone knows it. He’s been the distance with the likes of Kovalev and was only stopped in his last fight because of an injury,” Caparello explained. “He has an awkward style but has the boxing smarts. It will be a tough fight, I can see it being a chess match. It’s a big fight for both of us, we have both fought top guys and lost to them.”
“We’re both at that point where we are looking for that shot again. I’m number six and he’s number nine, so the winner won’t be to far off.”
While regional titles are generally an afterthought when assessing a match-up on paper, in this instance, the WBC International strap is a rare exception. Its last three owners at light heavyweight – Sullivan Barrera, Joe Smith Jr and Andrzej Fonfara – were all afforded marquee opportunities in the US in the midst of their respective title reigns.
This is something that the 31-year-old Caparello has contemplated in the build-up to his most significant fight in almost two years.
“Having an international title on the line is a big deal,” he continued. “If I win this – maybe I’ll be in line for a title shot – or an eliminator at best. I don’t think many fighters in Australia would take this sort of fight in the position I am in. I’m currently ranked in all four sanctioning bodies.”
“This fight is good international exposure, it’s a big fight. Worst case – I really believe the winner will gain a title eliminator – best case they get another shot at a world title. Both Adonis Stevenson and Badou Jack are fighting in May and we definitely think we would be right up there to be next in line.”
“The WBC belt has momentum, we are not going to lose anything after this fight. I need to be calm and not be too eager. If I’m too eager against someone like Chilemba that’s when you make mistakes. You just can’t afford to make silly mistakes against world class fighters.”
At the highest level in boxing, you’re only as good as the company you keep. If Caparello can earn a win against his mutually respected opponent, the road less traveled will bring the Australian to several high-profile places.
“I think fighting a guy like Chilemba will put me right back in the mix once again,” he concluded. “It’s a must win for me, there is a lot on the line. I’m expecting an impressive victory.”
Photo: Michael Capparelli