Don King Rescued My Boxing Career, Says Obisia
FORMER Commonwealth champion, Obisia Nwankpa, was one of those that made boxing a delight to fans in his days. His butterfly dance steps inside the ring, coupled with the ways he easily dislodged his opponents earned him the nickname, Golden Gloves. But Obisia, who narrowly missed a chance of becoming a World WBC lightweight champion in 1981, would not have made much impact in the game if not for the managerial expertise of the famous American boxing promoter, Donald ‘Don’ King.
Obisia was among guest speakers at a seminar organized by GOtv during the week in Lagos in preparation for the second edition of GOtv Boxing Night scheduled for March 15 at the Indoor Sports Hall of the National Stadium, Lagos.
Speaking on a topic: Boxer/Manager Relationships, Obisia lamented that some people, who called themselves boxing managers in the country, have directly destroyed the careers of many boxers with lip services they render to unsuspecting young boxers.
“Most of our boxing managers are not qualified,” Obisia said. “If a boxer does not dress well, hold his manager responsible. If a boxer misbehaves on the streets or inside the ring, hold his manager responsible. A good manager is like a father to the boxer. He thinks about the progress and exposure of his boxers all the time. Those managing our boxers in Nigeria are not qualified. The Nigeria Boxing Board of Control (NBB of C) should not offer license to all manner of people who call themselves boxing managers,” Obisia said.
Many topics centered on conduct of boxers and their relationships with managers were discussed at the GOtv Seminar.
Obisia recalled with nostalgia how Don King rescued his boxing career from the hands of quacks, who called themself managers in Nigeria.
“I was a professional boxer in Nigeria for four or five years and I didn’t know my right from left until I met Don King in England,” Obisia said. “It was then that I had a feel of what good managers could do for a boxer. I was introduced to Don King and a few days later, we flew to New York. He then took me to Las Vegas, where I stayed for about six months.”
While in Las Vegas, Obisia got the treatment a sportsman could get anywhere in the World. His manager (Don King) soon got him a bout with a take home pay of $15,000.
“But at the end of the fight, Don King handed me $7,000. I charged at him saying that my money was supposed to be $15,000 and why was he giving me just $7,000?
“Don King just laughed and tapped me on my back. He asked Obisia, for how long have you been in this city? I said six months. He then said, Obisia, you have been in Las Vegas for six months, stayed in best hotels, ate good food, moved around town in taxis and you had quality clothing. Where do you think such money came from?
“As I said earlier, if a boxer dresses like a mad man on the streets, hold his manager responsible. I was in my hotel room one day when someone knocked on my door. The man said he was a messenger from Don King. He came with four big bags fully loaded with varieties of training kits, wears and shoes. He came with four different pairs of shoes.
“The point I am trying to make is that as a manager, it is your responsibility to make sure your boxer gets the best at all time for you to get good results. We don’t have such people in Nigeria and it is affecting our boxers,” he said.
He commended GOtv and Flykite Production for coming to the rescue boxing in Nigeria saying: “We can now say that boxing is getting its bearings back in the country and I am happy about it.”
Obisia was an amateur boxer for 13 years. He was a Commonwealth champion. One sad moment Obisia and many Nigerians will live to remember was the title bout at the National Stadium on December 12, 1981.
On that day, Obisia was looking forward to crowning his boxing career with a World Boxing Council lightweight title. His opponent was an American boxer called Saoul Mamby. Nigerians were so optimistic that the Golden Gloves would deliver. But at the end, Obisia’s tactics failed. He lost the chance and Nigerians who came from far and near were sent to early bed.
Obisia never recovered from the disappointment of losing such an important bout in front of his home fans. He called it quit with the game in 1992 to become a coach.
He was introduced to boxing at a tender age of 13 at Odi-Olowo area of Mushin, Lagos where he was then living with his parents.
As a teenager, Obisia had a dream of holding a university degree. But all those dreams were shattered on a fateful day when he returned from school and his parents were nowhere to be found, as they had fled to the east.
That was in 1967, when the civil war broke out in Nigeria. Neighbours later narrated to the young Obisia how his father who was a soldier escaped from the hands of the federal troops. That was the last he saw of his father and indeed his family.
After his father’s escape, the young Obisia was harboured by their Yoruba neighbours who took care of him.
“Suddenly, there was an announcement that anybody caught harbouring Igbos would be punished and when the pressure became too much, my 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.”
From then, the children were taken to different schools, and Obisia was taken to Mapara Boys School. There, the Ministry of Labour allowed the students to take into different sports. He took delight in table tennis, football and boxing.
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