I Mismanaged the Money I Made From Boxing – Obisia Nwankpa

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Obisia NwankpaHis boxing finesse was unquestionable and little wonder he was nicknamed the Golden Gloves. Mushin in Lagos, Obisia Nwankpa took his boxing prowess to Munich, London, Las Vegas and other big cities of the world. He was one of the most-sought after sportsmen of his time. But today, Nwankpa is a shadow of the Commonwealth Champion he was then. In this chat with Kunle Adewale, he relieves his days in the military, the botched 1976 Olympic Games and many more

Growing up, Obisia Nwankpa had a dream of holding a university degree but without a particular in mind. But all those dreams were shattered on a fateful day when he returned school and his parents were not there to welcome him as they had fled to the east.

On returning school one particular day in 1967, he couldn’t find his parents and family members again. Neighbours later narrated to him how his father who was a soldier escaped the hands of the federal troops. That was the last he saw of his father and indeed his family.

father worked with the Medical Department of the and he was running a pharmaceutical shop and was very popular in the neighbourhood as most of the people referred to him as “”. So after father had escaped from the federal troops, I was harboured by Yoruba neighbours who really took care of me and I was very comfortable with them.

“Suddenly, there was an announcement that anybody caught harbouring Ibos would be punished and when the pressure became too much, guardians took me to Alakara Police Station, from where I was taken to a refugee camp at Sabo where I found so many Ibo children,” Nwankpa said.

From then, the children were taken to different schools, and he Nwankpa was taken to Mapara Boys School. There, the Ministry of Labour allowed the to take into different sports. The former All Africa Games gold medallist took delight in table , football and boxing. He became the captain of all the teams. But because of his exceptional talent in boxing, he was persuaded to drop the two other sports and concentrate on only boxing.

It was from there that Obisia was sent to a nine–month training tour of Germany to sharpen his skills.
“By the time I returned to the country from Germany, I was an entirely different person and there was going back for me in the game. By 1970, I was already a national champion, which to me was a great achievement because before I left for Germany, I was nobody.”
Nwankpa was introduced into boxing at a tender age of 13 at Odi-Olowo area of Mushin, Lagos where he was then living with his parents.
“In those days, a called Nocolas Kusry was running a boxing club called Igbobi Boxing Club around Mushin and it was one of the most popular boxing clubs in Lagos then. That was when I started picking interest in the act of boxing and interestingly too, it was at that time that the great Muhammed Ali, Hogan Bassey and Dick Tiger were reigning. These boxers really influenced my taking to boxing. I was so small then, but I took advantage of the fact that a boxing coach was residing in my area to go for training after school,” recalled Nwankpa.[eap_ad_2]

If there was somebody Obisia would not forget in a hurry, it is late Daily Times Sports Editor, B Bakare, who he said nicknamed him Golden Gloves.
“He was one of those that inspired me and helped me achieve what I achieved in boxing. He said I was always miles apart from my opponents in terms of tactics and that was why he gave me the nickname – Golden Gloves. Whatever he said concerning me came to pass.

“When I was going to the All Africa Games in 1973, he predicted that I was going to win gold and when I was leaving for the Commonwealth Games the following year in New Zealand and I was not so sure of myself, he was optimistic that I would return with a gold medal and it came to pass too. He motivated me a lot and made me have confidence and pride in myself.”

One of the disappointments Nwankpa had as a boxer was missing an opportunity to fight one of boxing greats, Sugar Ray Leonard.
“As an inexperienced 19-year-old boxer at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, I lost in the quarter finals. So I was optimistic of having a good outing at the 1976 edition in Montreal, Canada. There was a big preparation before the competition and everybody including Hogan Bassey was optimistic that I was going to emerge an Olympic gold medallist because I had become so strong and matured and I had already won gold medal at the All Africa Games, All Africa and Latin America Games, and at the Commonwealth versus America Event. So, I was already a four-ring gold medallist.

“Everybody was already looking at me as an Olympic gold medallist in waiting even before the kick-off of the competition. But as fate would have it, in the morning of the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games an announcement came that we should pack our belongings and return to Nigeria. I was full of tears, not only me but other athletes. But there was nothing we could do.

“It was a great set back, especially when I considered the training and efforts I had put in. It is not the kind of shoddy preparation that they put in these days. Then, you must have attended world championships and various international tournaments as part of your preparations. At first, the announcement that we are returning home was like a joke, but when we saw fellow African countries packing their bags it was then that it dawned on some of us that we were indeed returning to Nigeria.”

Asked if he thought he could have beaten Sugar Ray Leonard had Nigeria not withdrawn from the Olympics games? His response was a categorical yes.

“Then, nobody knew who he (Sugar Ray) was and I would have seen him as another black American and he would have kissed the canvass like any of my other opponents. It was after the Olympics that he earned his name. The boxers that I really dreaded then were the Germans and the Cubans.”

At 60, the former Commonwealth champion said his passion for the sport has not reduced. “For me, boxing is life and I can’t imagine doing something else aside boxing. After spending virtually all my life associating with the sport, either as a boxer or as a coach, I can’t think of any other thing.”

Though he admitted to mismanaging the he made from boxing but said he did not squander the on women as generally believed.
Sincerely, “I made fortune while I was fighting, but the general notion that I frittered it on women is not true. I spent my to enjoy my good life.” ()[eap_ad_3]