Kevin Lele Sadjo (right) stepped in as a late replacement to face Jack Cullen in December 2021 and ended up winning the European super middleweight title by sixth-round stoppage. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Rising super middleweight Kevin Lele Sadjo will put his European title on the line for the first time against Emre Cukur at La Palsestre in Le Cannet, France, on Saturday.
The aggressive Frenchman expects to make a statement by using his style to break Cukur down.
“Emre Cukur has good movements, but he’s not going to seek war; he’s going to want to avoid the showdown,” Sadjo (18-0, 16 knockouts) told The Ring through promoter Yohan Zaoui.
“I’m going to put terrible pressure on him, and he won’t hold out until the end. I have to get rid of him. This guy can’t compete with me. After the fifth or sixth round, he will be asphyxiated. I will knock him out.”
Sadjo was a talented amateur who won the French national title at 178 pounds in 2017. He turned professional that same year and initially fought as a light heavyweight but has worked his way down to super middleweight. The all-action fighter later defeated Walter Sequeira (TKO 10) and Ronnie Landaeta (UD 10).
However, his big break came last December when, ironically, he stepped in to replace Cukur on 10 days’ notice to face Jack Cullen for the vacant EBU title.
“I took up the challenge despite not being in top [shape] physically,” said Sadjo, who scored an impressive sixth-round stoppage over Cullen on the Joseph Parker-Derek Chisora undercard. “I knew the solution was to break his ribs — I was right. It may have been a surprise for the English fans, but not for me. I knew I was going to go home with the belt.”
Despite the title win, Sadjo’s efforts to advance his career were initially stymied as he went without a fight for several months.
“I changed promoter in the summer, I now work with the best French team and I don’t want to waste any more time,” said the 32-year-old, who has prepared for the fight in his hometown of Creteil, France, for eight weeks. “I want to fight three or four times a year and against big opponents. Y12 Boxing is the solution. Yohan Zaoui is a real boxing expert and a very good business man, we will achieve great things together.”
Zaoui, the president of Y12 Boxing, says his fledgling company is very ambitious and expects Sadjo to push for world honors in due course.
“I must clearly propel the French fighters to the top of the rankings,” said Zaoui. “France has always been full of great talent; the problem was who ran the business. Y12 Boxing will change a lot of things.
“Kevin must quickly enter the top 5 of the four [sanctioning bodies.] He will prove that he is already part of the best in the world. Cukur is not a fighter on Kevin’s level, and he will demonstrate it on November 19. After this defense, I would like to make him face a top fighter, and why not in the USA?”
Cukur (19-1-1, 3 KOs) turned professional in 2016. The German-born fighter of Turkish descent won his first 14 fights before tasting defeat against Davide Faraci (UD 8) in 2020. The 29-year-old has rebounded with five wins, most notably besting European stalwarts Siarhei Khamitski (UD 8) and Geard Ajetovic (UD 10). However, most recently, he was held to a draw against Hadillah Mohoumadi (SD 8).
Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at [email protected].