COVID-19: How Nigerian boxers are keeping hope alive

Baby Face in action
Baby Face in action

Since the first reported case of COVID-19 in China, life around the globe has not been the same and the sporting community has not been spared either.

Boxing, like most other sports, has been grounded to a halt as the coronavirus pandemic has culminated in forced lockdowns in most countries.

From London to Italy, Spain to Nigeria, sportspeople, including boxers, have had to improvise to stay fit as well as not run afoul of the laws in their respective environments.

While the likes of Anthony Joshua has seen their scheduled fights postponed indefinitely, boxers back home in Nigeria are also lamenting the ‘hard times’ ushered in by the pandemic.

Apart from some individual bouts already lined up by the likes of Monarch Promotions, the National Sports Festival and the GOtv Boxing Night 21 were top on the calendar for most of the local boxers.

However, after weeks of training, the two events and many others were postponed indefinitely and that development dealt a big blow indeed on most of the boxers spoken with by PREMIUM TIMES.

Rilwan ‘Babyface’ Babatunde, who is the reigning West African Boxing Union welterweight champion, said he is struggling at the moment as his major source of income remains suspended due to COVID-19.

He said: “As a professional boxer, it’s not easy at all, someone like me does not have any other source of major income apart from boxing; we are praying that the whole virus thing will go so we can return to our normal life and back to the ring as soon as possible.”

On how he has been managing to keep fit going by the lockdown order in Lagos where he resides ‘Babyface’ said he is doing his bit within the ambit of the law.

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“No matter what, training must continue, even if I cannot go to the gym for sparring session because of social distancing and all that, I still engage in other exercises so I can be fit, you know I was supposed to fight for the African title before it was postponed due to coronavirus,” the pugilist added.

For Prince Timothy Gonze, the number one contender for the National Cruiser Weight Title, he emphasized on the need to stay alive while also echoing the cash crunch.

He said: “We are not happy that we cannot do what we love to do which is boxing but that said we must obey all the government directive so we can be alive when things would be back to normal.

“I have my personal gym and that is where I have been keeping fit in anticipation that things would soon be fine.”

Olagbade
Olagbade

World Boxing Union (WBU) Super Welterweight World Champion, Sule ‘Tyson Kill’ Olagbade, also affirmed that regardless of the pandemic, he is maintaining a robust training regime.

“My situation is only better because I live in my own compound with a large space and so I set up a makeshift gym with tires and what have you. I do 2000 squats and rope skipping.

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“Furthermore, I jog around and I do have an old punching bag and I use it to go 12 rounds of intensive pounding, like that I stay fit because it will not be good for a World Champion to be caught napping no matter what.”

Before the lockdown, Olagbade was due to defend his title in the USA but the fight which was to be promoted by Monarch Events and Promotions was one of the many casualties of the virus.

“I was to fight in Ghana and it did not happen and my World Title defence in the USA was also cancelled because of the disease spread but tell my fans to obey the government directives and we will win this battle against this common enemy called coronavirus, we will party and celebrate when it is all over but for now let’s all stay home and stay safe.”

Amidst difficult times, these boxers like others are finding ways of staying fit and hopefully they will live to fight another day.



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