MARTIN BAKOLE is the African prince who wants to become Scotland’s heavyweight king. Congo-born of regal descent, Bakole left his homeland four years ago to start a new life in Greengairs, a small village on the outskirts of Airdrie.

There, under the watchful eye of renowned trainer Billy Nelson, he has improved to the point where he is now ranked 20th in the world in a division packed with big names and even bigger punchers. Anthony Joshua is a close friend and regular sparring partner, while Bakole has also helped Daniel Dubois and Joe Joyce tune up for bouts with taxing rounds in the gym.

Nelson, as loquacious as his fighter is reserved, believes Bakole has been “avoided” in recent years, depriving the 27-year-old of the chance to muscle his way into the upper echelons of a competitive heavyweight division. That wait will end on Saturday when, on the undercard of Joshua’s world title defence against Kubrat Pulev, Bakole steps into the ring for the first time in 2020 to take on Sergey Kuzmin with the WBC International title on the line.

Victory would propel the Matchroom boxer into contention for bigger fights and he knows he needs to make the most of this moment.

He said: “I’ve been waiting a long time for this opportunity. It is a really big chance for me to show the world what I can do.

“I want to be in contention for big fights next year. If I can win this one against Kuzmin then it really pushes me forward.

“The heavyweight division is very exciting right now. And most of the best fighters are here in the UK.

“My coach says I am a future world champion and I agree. I want to get all the belts in the next few years and we are working hard towards that. I won’t be satisfied to be No.5 or 6 in the world. I am doing this to be No.1. I am getting there slowly but my time is coming.”

Bakole jokes that he is now “half-Scottish”, with bluenose Nelson having persuaded him to become a Rangers fan alongside his devotion to Barcelona.

Having previously fought on a Josh Taylor undercard at the Hydro, Bakole would love his first defence after becoming world champion to take place in Glasgow.

“I’ve been here four years now and I love it in Scotland. It’s pretty cold here but I am used to it now! The people are nice and I feel settled.

“I’d love to fight in Glasgow again. I defended my IBO title at the Hydro a few years ago and that was an incredible night with a great atmosphere. So when I become world champion I would love to defend my title there again. This is my second home – I feel half-Scottish now!”

The other dream he holds is to return home for another Rumble in the Jungle style bash in the Congo capital of Kinshasa, with Joshua in the other corner.

Bakole adds: “AJ and I spar a lot and we are good friends. But he knows I am coming for his belts! It’s our job. Work is work so you have to do what you can to succeed. I have learned a lot from Anthony. He’s a good guy and a really good boxer, always coming forward looking to win.

“I know AJ wants to fight in Africa one day because of his heritage so maybe we could make it happen in Kinshasa. It will be another Rumble in the Jungle!

“My brother Ilunga is defending his world cruiserweight title there the week after my fight and I know how much that means to him. And one day I will hopefully

do the same. That would be an amazing night for me.”

The Bakole royal line grew in the summer with the birth of his son, Michael. The virus has prevented Bakole Jr from joining him in Scotland but becoming a father has given him extra motivation in his boxing journey.

“It changes your mentality when you become a father. Before I was only fighting for myself but now I am doing it for my son and my family. I am so happy to be a dad. It is a shame I can’t see him more often but I always see how he is doing on video calls. I have been out doing Christmas shopping for gifts to send back home – I got him some cool little trainers and a few other things.

“Boxing is in my blood so I hope it will stay in the family. If he wants to become a boxer I will help him of course. And hopefully

he can become a champion one day too.”