The recent coronavirus has hit Nigeria boxing hard as the sport has grinded to a halt. Boxers in the country have been forced to carry out skeletal trainings to keep fit while awaiting—without surety—when normalcy will return.
BoxingAfrica.com spoke to some of Nigeria’s finest regarding how they are handling the pandemic and what their future plans are. Like so many others in these difficult times, these boxers are finding ways of staying fit and, most important, staying safe.
Super welterweight Sule “Tyson Kill” Olagbade (8-1, 6 KOs), who holds the minor WBU 154-pound belt, had the foresight to prepare for this kind of interruption.
“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,” said Olagbade. “I do 2000 squats and rope skipping.
“Furthermore, I jog around and I do have an old punching bag and I use it to go 12 rounds of intensive pounding. So 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 both Ghana and, subsequently, the USA. Both fell through. Olagbade is unfazed.
“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.”
Unbeaten lightweight Oto “Joeboy” Joseph (16-0, 7 KOs), who recently fully recovered from a hand injury, said he is staying fit during this time of social distancing.
“I am doing my best to stay in shape,” said Joseph. “I go on a road walk every morning, though I do it carefully, avoiding coming in contact with anyone. I miss going to gym though.
“When I get back home, I do my press-ups and squats as well as shadow boxing. I know I need much more since I am just returning from a long term injury.”
Joseph laments what might have been if not for COVID-19.
“I would have been in Accra, Ghana, now putting the finishing touches to my preparation for a joint shot at the WBF Africa and ABU lightweight titles which my new promoter was arranging for me but all that will wait for when this is over.”
Cruiserweight Tony “Sugar” Salam (14-2, 9 KOs) is as concerned with the loss of earnings as he is the loss of training facilities.
“It’s not easy at all but you know it’s what one has signed to do in life and so we have to find a way to keep fit despite the tough times,” said Salam. “The disease on one hand and financial constraints on the other but I try my best with my morning runs and then I do my shadow boxing and other physical exercises in the evening in order not to lose one’s fitness.
“Most boxers now are in financial difficulties as they spent a lot preparing for fights that were cancelled eventually because of coronavirus and so promoters should do more in paying boxers good money to fight when this is over.
“We don’t know when this is going to end but I would like to tell all my fans and fellow boxers to stay safe by staying at home as this sickness is very scary and we must beware. It’s when one is alive that he can box or watch boxing, so life first.”
–Ralph Chidozie George, Twitter: @ralphcgeorge