Chris Ngimbi is coming off the biggest win of his career, a bout against Murat Direkci in which he won the It's Showtime 70MAX World Title with a 5 round unanimous decision. And while myself and some other disagree on the decision, he can prove himself as a champion by defending his belt this Saturday. Some say that you're not a proven champion until you defend your belt and I think that saying could apply here. Despite being the -70kg champ of It's Showtime, many don't consider Ngimbi to be one of the top -70kg fighters in the world. A win and successful title defense here could help him inch closer to getting more recognition, especially on a card as big as this one.
Chris Ngimbi over his career has been a very inconsistent, hot and cold, hit or miss type fighter. There would be periods where he would lose to in a row, win a few fights after and just when you thought he was resurging, he'd lose again. Well as of late that has changed. Since late 2009, Ngimbi has won four fights in a row. He's gotten through some tough competition in Chahid Oulad El Hadj, Hafid El Boustati, Anthony Nekrui and Murat Direkci whom he won the title from in December. While those fighters aren't considered the top fighters at -70kg, they're very solid wins.
Looking to take the title from Ngimbi is Willy Borrel, a 35 year old fighter from France. Many in the kickboxing community as well as myself are questioning why Borrel is getting this chance at a title shot. He's never fought in It's Showtime before. I wouldn't even consider Borrel the top -70kg fighter in France. Mickael Piscitello and Johann Fauveau out of France have beaten him quite decisively yet they're fighting on the undercard. I think it's very likely that if this card wasn't in France that he wouldn't even be on the card. Nevertheless, he's getting a shot at Chris Ngimbi's title.
Borrel is a fighter that likes to come forward and attack with a lot of kicks to the legs and body, work his way inside and bomb away. He's built like a brick shithouse and will try to use every bit of that frame to muscle his way in and pound away with hooks to the body and head. What he has shown is that he is very suscepitable to knees and that just happens to be Ngimbi's specialty. Opponents have used Borrel's aggression against him to time knees right into the midsection, which clearly have shown to be effective against him. Johann Fauveau especially did this well. Another flaw I've noticed in Borrel is that when backed up and pressured, he tends to go into a defensive shell. Now Ngimbi isn't the type of fighter who will relentlessly pressure someone but this could make it interesting if he's able to hurt Borrel and go after him.
While lackluster at times, Ngimbi finds a way to get the job done. I agree with the It's Showtime commentary crew in that Ngimbi seemed visibly nervous against Direkci. The nervousness seemed to make him much more hesitant to strike than usual. It was his first title fight in a big organization so I can understand but the fact that he seemed nervous like that for the whole fight does make you wonder. Hopefully for this fight he can have some confidence knowing that he's the champion and most people are picking him to win. A Chris Ngimbi with confidence is a very dynamic fighter.
Ngimbi has two keys to win this fight. Use his footwork to stay just outside of Borrel's range while staying off the ropes and utilizing his knees to hurt Borrel and keep him away. Ngimbi has to keep Borrel just outside of his range so he can tee off with counters to disrupt Borrel's aggression. A confident Ngimbi counters effectively. Ngimbi can't let himself get caught up on the ropes because that's where Borrel will use his frame to bully Ngimbi. The one think that Ngimbi has that can change the fight are his knees. Ngimbi throws his knees on the inside from positions that opponents aren't expecting. Chahid Oulad El Hadj and Murat Direkci were both dropped by a knee from Ngimbi and Anthony Nekrui was stopped by one. If Ngimbi can get one off while Borrel doesn't expect it, it could be nighty night for Borrel.
At 35 years old, you have to wonder how much punishment Borrel can take. He might be able to get some good shots off on Ngimbi but then again can he survive the shots of Ngimbi, especially the knees?
Expect Ngimbi to be countering and Borrel to be coming forward with it being even or slightly in Ngimbi's favor for the first few rounds before Ngimbi starts to get the better of Borrel and finishes him with a knee to the chin in the championship rounds.