Former Commonwealth boxing champion, Obisia Nwakpa, is convinced that professional boxing in Nigeria is on the rise. His conviction is founded on recent developments on the circuit.
“The involvement of GOtv, through GOtv Boxing Night, can only have two outcomes: Better boxing and better boxers,” he said.
Nwakpa should know. His active days coincided with the most productive era of Nigerian boxing. However, he senses that something bigger is in the offing. “Professional sports men, not just boxers, are motivated by financial rewards. GOtv Boxing Night has ensured better purses for boxers and comes with an additional N1million for the best boxer. This is the best we have seen in this country,” he said.
The claim made by Nwakpa, popularly known as “Golden Gloves”, is not one the current crop of boxers or administrators will dispute. Since the third edition of GOtv Boxing Night, a crop of millionaire boxers have been raised in the country.
At GOtv Boxing Night 3, the winner of the N1million cash prize for the best boxer was Olaide “Fijaborn” Fijabi, incumbent national light welterweight champion, after being adjudged top performer by journalists in attendance. Three editions later, he won again. Fijabi said he spent part of the money on buying boxing kits and equipment for himself.
Oto “Joe Boy” Joseph, national lightweight champion, has won more than Fijabi, having picked up the prize thrice at GOtv Boxing Night 4, 7 and 9.
Stanley “Edo Boy” Eribo, national welterweight champion, won the biggest sum in the country’s boxing history. Eribo won N1.5million at the special edition of the event held on 26 December, 2016.
Waidi “Skoro” Usman, national and West African featherweight champion, also won N1million at GOtv Boxing Night 9.
For Skoro, the money was like a downpour in the desert. He said he spent part of the money on boxing kits and invested the rest in a business venture.
“What I think they are doing for us is to ensure that we don’t suffer when we quit boxing. Those before us did not have luck of winning such an amount. I could not have saved one million naira to start a business that I had always wanted to do,” he said.
Edo Boy, the Benin-based welterweight champion, is of similar persuasion. “In Ghana, where I lived before I returned home, I never got anything close to that. The money I won assisted me in taking care of my immediate needs and assured me that there is a future for me in the sport,” he explained.
Joe Boy, the three-time winner, said he doubted that the promise of N1million could be fulfilled by the sponsors when they announced it.
“In Nigeria, promises are broken without consequences, so I told myself that N1million for a locally-based boxer was never going to happen,” he said.
Fijabi’s receipt of the cheque for his first win banished his doubt.
“When Fijabi won and was given his cheque, I knew the sponsors were genuine. I have won three times and I hope and pray to win again because the money won has helped boost the businesses I run. This kind of money can help boxers set themselves up for when they will retire,” he said.