‘God arrested me inside boxing ring in Europe’
His story is like that of the Biblical Jonah, who was sent by God to the city of Nineveh but tried to escape the divine mission. But unlike Jonah, who ended up in the belly of the big fish before he finally carried out God’s message, former WBA light heavyweight, British and Commonwealth boxing champion, Peter Oboh, spent 18 years in Europe, where his adventure in Italy and the United Kingdom fetched him three boxing championship belts.
At first, Oboh ignored God’s voice commanding him to use his energy to convert sinners, instead of exchanging blows inside the ring. He finally heeded the divine call and relocated to Lagos in November 2008. Oboh is now an apostle in Lagos, heading the Founder of Jesus Loves You Ministry. From the boxing ring in Europe to the pulpit in Nigeria is perhaps the best way to capture the story of the Edo State-born ex-boxer.
Oboh was a special guest of honour during a Gotv Boxing event at the National Stadium, Lagos, where he recounted how the voice of God forced him to abandon his plan of crossing from Europe to the United States for a deal with boxing promoter, Don King.
“After winning the WBA light heavyweight, British and Commonwealth titles in Europe, my plan was to move to the US and sign with Don King so that I could be getting mega fights,” Oboh recalled.
“I was already a Christian then and I kept seeing myself in the dream preaching. My interest in church work kept increasing that after a while, it dawned on me that I was being called by God to be a pastor. I had to quit boxing. I retired as a champion. My last bout was the British and the Commonwealth title defence against Andrew Lowe and I knocked him out in the 11th round; he retired after the fight. I never knew that was also going to be my last fight.
“Left to me, I would have continued my boxing career in the United States, but when God’s calling came, I had to make a choice. So, I had to drop boxing and answer the call. When I left boxing, I decided to forget about it for some time. I stayed away from anything that could remind me of boxing because I didn’t want to be tempted to go back to the ring. Now. I have become secure as a pastor that is why I can even talk about boxing,” he stated.
Inside the ring in Europe, Oboh was fearless. He conquered all those that came his way. The boxer, who hails from Esan South-East in Edo State, left Lagos on March 14, 1990, for Italy. His adventure in Italy and the United Kingdom fetched him three boxing championship belts in the light heavyweight division.
His first port of call in Europe was the Italian city of Naples, where he fought as an amateur boxer for five years winning all his fights. Oboh began his professional career in May 1993 in Cassino, Italy, by stopping Italian, Antonio Russo, in the fifth round to win his first Pro bout. His first three professional fights were in Italy, but he left for London, the United Kingdom in 1994.
Oboh fought in three different weight classes in the United Kingdom, light heavy, cruiserweight and heavyweight to make a living. “All my fights were on a few days notice until the elimination bout against Chris Davies on January 29, 2001 at Peterborough,” he reminisced. “I won in round 8 to emerge the No 1 mandatory contender for the Commonwealth light heavyweight title.
“It was the first time I was given eight weeks notice to prepare for a fight. They have always given me two days notice, which is their regular method and I took the fights to pay my bills. They couldn’t believe it when I knockout my opponents. And I had a new manager, Dean Powell, who had the same idea and goals, which is to become a world champion,” he stated.
On September 6, 2002, Oboh won his first title by knocking out a Kenyan, George Adipo in the first round in Bethnal Green, London to grab the Commonwealth British light heavyweight championship.
His next fight took place in Coventry, United Kingdom on March 8, 2003 when he knocked out former British and Commonwealth champion, Neil Simpson in round 11 to win the vacant British light heavyweight belt. He won the WBA International light heavyweight belt on November 14, 2003 by 11th round knock out over previously unbeaten Elvis Michailenko in Bethnal Green, London.
His camp went into negotiations with WBA world light heavyweight champion, Silvio Branco to defend his title in London or Italy.
“I was ready to take on any light heavyweight World champion including former undisputed light heavyweight Roy Jones Jnr, but there are too many games in boxing especially if you are an African.
“With all their tricks, I conquered the domestic scene in the UK. They couldn’t rob me of victory because I knocked everybody out. Then, they frustrated me by not letting me get a shot at any of the world titles,” he alleged.
With all the three belts, he still felt empty and so he decided to be a full time minister of God. His last fight was May 12, 2004 against Andrew Lowe in Reading, United Kingdom, which he won by knockout in round 10. He retired from boxing as the British, Commonwealth and the WBA International light heavy weight-boxing champion.
As a teenager, Oboh’s desire was be a soldier like his father. “That was why I decided to go into martial arts as a young boy. It was after I watched Muhammad Ali and George Foreman in the Rumble in the Jungle that I decided to become a boxer,” he stated.
With the Rio Olympics Games coming up in August, Apostle Oboh says Team Nigeria needs world-class boxers to win medals: “For Nigerian boxers to win six gold medals at the All Africa Games in Congo Brazzaville in 2015 shows they are ready physically. But for the Rio Olympic Games, they need exposure to boost their confidence. Extra international exposure would be like the icing on the cake. There were fights that I won or even lost in my active days, “but when I looked back, I realise that I could have knocked down my opponent if I was more confident. In boxing, confidence matters a lot,” he stated.
Oboh had an opportunity of representing Nigeria at Barcelona ’92 Olympics Games, but it was ‘burgled.’“In 1990, I came to Nigeria for a championship. Then we were preparing for the Barcelona ‘92 Olympics. I was in Nigeria’s camp for nine months and became number one in the light heavyweight category. But eventually the person who was number two, Jack Lord Jacobs, went for the Olympics instead. I was disqualified during a tournament that was organized as part of preparations for both Cairo ‘92 All Africa Games and the Olympics. They said I was too rough when I fought one Ghanaian boxer. I returned to Italy to become a professional boxer,” he stated.
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