Nigerian boxing buffs mourn Ali, urge upcoming boxers to emulate him

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As the world mourn the late boxing legend, Muhammad Ali, Nigeria boxing buffs on Saturday paid tributes to one of the greatest sportsmen, who died late on Friday.

Ali, who had long suffered from Parkinson’s syndrome, died a day after he was admitted to a Phoenix-area hospital in the U.S with a respiratory ailment.

In their tributes to the dogged fighter of the 20th Century, they said that he was true to his tag as boxing legend.

A promoter, Chuka Momah, in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos, urged upcoming boxers to immortalise the boxing great by imbibing his character on and out of the ring.

Momah told NAN that Ali was not just a boxer but an exemplary human whose legacy would always be remembered and cherished.

“He exhibited moral and ethical discipline while he plied his trade, thus, distinguishing himself as an outstanding boxer all through his career.

“He was the greatest of all time; all aspiring boxers should strive to be half as great as he was to be honest.

“His hard work is examplary, Ali was humble, he was not only a boxer, his death is heart-breaking; he was also a human rights activist.

“He changed the face of boxing, he paved the way that upcoming boxers should take advantage of,’’ he said.

Renowned sports analyst, Mitchel Obi, described Ali as the greatest of all time.

“He gave boxing a meaning; if they say you are the greatest, what more can you add?

“He was a phenomenon, he was not just a boxer; he was indeed a superman.

“He refocused our mind to who black Americans are, he advocated for the virtue of racial equality, he reminded us of what humanity is all
about,’’ Obi said

He added that in his active years as a boxer, Ali won 37 knockouts, had 56 wins out of 61 fights and only lost five times during his career.

For Obisia Nwakpa, a former National Boxing Coach and Commonwealth Champion, Ali was a role model to African boxers who looked forward to him to advance in their careers.

“He brought glamour, fame, entertainment and acceptability to the sport.

“He was one man who hardly lost a fight, and if there was any, it was gallantly lost,’’ Nwakpa said.

He said that the world had just witnessed the passing away of a super legend in boxing.

Nwankpa, who won Nigerian lightweight title, African Boxing Union Light Welterweight and the Commonwealth Lightweight titles, said
the great boxer gave a benchmark of what boxing should be like.

“A super legend he was, a man who made boxing what it is today.

“It was through him we all stood up and believed in the sport. I got enough encouragement in boxing from him and I realised that boxing is a way of life.

“I know that he won’t be forgotten in a hurry and in the lives of those he touched and motivated; those that see him as a mentor and
those he left behind too.

“Muhammad Ali came to our country twice and the first time was in June, 1964 and that same year, he made his first victory as the heavyweight champion.

“It is a pity that he died with the Parkinson’s disease which he fought tooth and nail for years,’’ Nwakpa said.

He urged the Federal Government to honour Ali by delegating some Nigerian boxers to attend his burial as final respect to him.

“We should at least send some notable Nigerian boxing legends to attend his burial.

“We do not need the Minister of Youth and Sports or the Director of Sports to go there, but Nigerian boxers that are participating in or have participated in the sport instead,’’ he said.

Tony Konyekwachi, Head Coach, Nigeria Boxing Federation (NBF), said that the boxing family would miss Ali.

“He is boxing and boxing is Ali. He visited Nigeria twice, one was in 1964 and that visit changed the posture of boxing in Nigeria and
Africa.

“Let the government honour him with delegates to his burial,’’ he said.

West African Light Welter Champion, Abiodun Fijabi, said that Ali was an inspiration to him as a boxer.

“He added that watching the clips of his previous fights helped him to be a good boxer.

“Ali is one boxer I drew inspiration from; I watch his fights whenever I want to train or prepare for a fight. He was a true legend any boxer will like to emulate.

“The way he guards is extraordinary and he always threw his punch as if he was throwing his last.

“Every punch is important to him that was the reason he could sustain his tempo,’’ he said.

A boxing commentator, Segun Awe, told NAN that Ali might be difficult to replace in the boxing circuit, adding that all his fights were
spectacles.

“Arguably, he is still the best boxer the sport has ever produced and that speaks volume of the reason most of the ticket for his fight were always expensive as at then.

“Ali added much flair to boxing apart from his boxing prowess.

“He can fight to any length without getting tired and one of the most dreaded when it comes to punching.

“Ali actually popularised boxing far and near and was so bold to bring his fight to unfamiliar terrain by coming to fight in Zaire, Africa.

“We shall sorely miss him,’’ he said.

Also, Victor Fingesi, President, Nigeria Baseball and Softball Association, said Ali was an exceptional sportsman and that there would never be another Ali.

“He was a great fighter that the world will never forget even with his demise,’’ he said.

Also, Falade Oyekan, a board member of the Lagos State Football Association, said that Ali during his career brought more spice and
glamour to boxing with his style.

Oyekan said that his fights against George Foreman and Joe Fraser were the greatest bouts of all in the history of boxing.

“Ali’s style of boxing was unique and entertaining,’’ he said.

Ali, born in 1942, came to limelight in his boxing career when he won gold at the age of 18 at the Rome Olympics in 1960.

Ali, born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr., remains the only three-time lineal world heavyweight champion, winning the title in 1964, 1974 and 1978.

Between Feb. 25, 1964 and Sept. 19, 1964, Muhammad Ali reigned as the undisputed heavyweight boxing champion, with career spanning over two decades.

Ali, self-professed “The Greatest’’, was involved in several historic boxing matches.

Notable among these were the first Liston fight, three with rival Joe Frazier, and “The Rumble in the Jungle’’ with George Foreman, in Zaire. (NAN)

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