Remi Aboderin: Anthony Joshua not Nigeria’s best
Boxing promoter turned administrator Remi Aboderin sat down with TAIWO ALIMI and ADEYINKA AKINTUNDE to talk about how his background stimulated his passion for fisticuffs, Anthony Joshua, present and future of Nigerian boxing.
His passion for boxing was fuelled by his father from childhood. He would sit at his feet while watching Muhammad Ali and other legends in the 70s. Watching and studying, he developed an undying love for the sweet science kindled by Ali vs Foreman 1974 Rumble in the Jungle, and Thrilla in Manila Ali vs Joe Frazier (1975) and many others that drew the world’s attention to make boxing the most watched sports in that era.
Oluwaremilekun Aboderin better known as Remi Aboderin a.k.a ‘Don King of Nigeria’ got hooked and even in adulthood could not wriggle out of it. He returned soon after he had graduated and worked briefly as a journalisat to promoting boxers and boxing shows. He would not let go even when boxing took a plunge no thanks to the all-embracing attention given football by those in sport authority. He kept on digging and today, Aboderin, sits atop the administrative office of Nigerian Boxing Board of Control (NBB of C) as the general secretary and the West African Boxing Union, (WABU) as president.
“My love for boxing started from childhood. Then, boxing was the number sport in the world. Your parent must not find you playing football, but when you come home crying beaten by your age-mate from outside, your parents would ask you to go back. They want you to be tough.
“We had NTA Sports then on Saturdays, and what they showed most was boxing. My father was a lover of boxing and he always invited me to watch with him. I was also opportune to watch the “Rumble in the Jungle” between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman. That was where the love began.”
In Nigeria, he was also drawn to boxing through the exploit of Hogan Kid Bassey, Obisia Nwankpa, Dele Jonathan, Joe ‘Atomic Bomb’ Lasisi that made the sport glorious in the 70s and 80s.
“Though, there was Emmanuel Okala and many great footballers then, boxing no doubt, was the king of sports.
“Boxing was the sport our former President, Nnamdi Azikiwe was involved in. It is a show of your manliness that got the ladies flocking around you.”
Though, he did not get to wear gloves, he built up a deportment and carriage akin to a boxer. “My friends know I don’t talk much, but if it is fight, let us fight. I don’t look for trouble, but when trouble breaks out, I stay with it.
“I grew up in tough environments; Ajegunle and Agege and so boxing was the in-thing for us.”
At a point, he drifted away from boxing, but the bond between them proved too strong.
“Whatever God has destined for you, you would fulfil it. I was trained as a journalist and I worked in newspaper houses. In 1999 I saw a boxing show on TV. It was shabbily arranged, and I thought I could do better that that. I thought I could go into boxing promotion. I asked around, and I was told that there was the NBB of C, in charge of boxing. I was taken to late Sir Walter Batowei, a journalist with FRCN and general secretary of NBB of C. He later became vice president under the presidency of Chief Godwin Kanu. I got registered in 1999, and my first pro motion was in 2000.”
Like a true fighter, Aboderin did not let the knockdown occasioned by lull in boxing dampen his courage. “If you are into something, you will keep forging ahead whether good or bad. I will not say I was encouraged or discouraged, I just forge ahead. A boxer will always tell you that he will defeat somebody, even if he is not sure of victory. It is in the blood.
“Boxing is in so many facets. It is about a promoter having one or two boxers that are good and you want to promote them. If you have a show and your boxer is good and he wins, even if you do not get money there, your boxer can be invited from outside the country to box. You just have to keep promoting your boxers. A promoter must have boxers on his bill. The most important thing is putting your boxer in the forefront and that is what I did. I just keep pushing.”
An incurable optimist- the promoter turned administrator- is certain Nigeria is blessed with natural and good boxers. He boldly expressed that good days are back for Nigerian boxing. “Right now, GOtv is doing wonderful things for boxing in Nigeria.”
Aboderin revealed that GOtv has been able to expose and change the lives of established and many up and coming boxers. “Aside from recognized boxers, GOtv has done about five GOtv boxing series every year. About 80 boxers have been discovered, and 25 potential champions picked.
“Most of the boxers making waves are GOtv products. It has helped to discover them but they also need regular bouts and endorsements to feed their families.
“I can say aloud that boxing is back, thanks to GOtv and Flykite. If not for COVID-19, we would have had four boxing shows between April and July. If in a year, we can have about four to five shows staged by other promoters to add to GOtv’s five in a year that would be enough. For your information, two international fights organized by GOtv would have happened but COVID-19 pandemic disrupting it.”
He said the cable network provider has also lifted the social and economic status of boxers.
“Taiwo ‘Esepo’ Agbaje recently talked about how he bought some okadas (commercial motorcycles) and tricycles (keke) after winning N1million to N2million at ‘GOtv Boxing Night. Someone that could hardly feed himself now has a business bringing steady income to help himself and his family. This is due to the intervention of GOtv.
“If the tempo had continued, he would have had some fights, maybe commonwealth title, and make good money for himself. His coaches and manager would make someth8ing too.”
Aboderin, who is also big on entertainment, said all hands must be on deck to create more good boxers while hinting that boxing is capable of taking crime out of the youths and creating more jobs.
“Beyond money, the right policy must be put in place. This is what will drive sponsorship and money. What do I mean by enabling environment? Nigeria government need to make policy statement that will make corporate bodies know that they should invest in Nigerian sports.”
“It is an error to say that the best of our boxers are abroad, they are here in Nigeria and if they get conducive environment they can be greater.”
He was bold to add that Nigeria has better heavyweight boxers than world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua (AJ).
“We see a lot of Nigerian boxers doing well abroad. The name on everybody’s lips today is Anthony Joshua. What happens to our boxers here? Is it that they cannot make it unless they go out?
“It is unfortunate that we keep talking about AJ. We have better boxers right here in Nigeria. We have a boxer that was actually taken out after the Olympics; Efe Ajagba. He is one of the best heavyweight fighters in the industry now and he was trained here. He has done 13 professional fights so far and has won nine by TKO.
“Tyson Fury, AJ’s next opponent is already talking about Ajagba. We have the materials, what we do not have is the enabling environment. For Fury to call Ajagba out means that he is good.
“How do we get endorsements when companies are not endorsing regular fights? A company in Nigeria went to London to endorse AJ, who never for once said he wants to represent Nigeria. There is the claim that he came to Nigeria and he was driven back, that never happened. He is a British-born Nigerian boxer.”
He also frowned at the number of boxing sanctioning bodies explaining that they retard progress. “Why boxing also left the number one sports position in the world, is because of the too many sanctioning bodies. In football, we have FIFA alone coming with the sledge hammer, but in boxing, we have the WBC, WBF, WBA, WBO, IBF and others.
“But thank God for what is happening now because boxing is the second most loved sport in the world. Four major bodies have been picked now to sanction boxing. That is WBA, WBC, IBF, and WBO. If this has been done years back, boxing would have been at par with football.”
Aboderin comes from one of the largest families in Ibadan, and late Chief Olu Aboderin, owner of Punch Newspapers is uncle to his father. He is a Chelsea fan and enjoys watching football too.
TKO WITH ABODERIN
ON ANTHONY JOSHUA
AJ is not a Nigerian boxer. It is unfortunate that our leaders go after finished product, and neglect raw material. The westerners see the raw talent and they come here to pick them. Samuel Peters was in Nigeria he went to the Olympics and he was discovered and picked, he went to America and became a world beater.
IF NOT BOXING ADMINISTRATOR…
I would have been a journalist or maybe a policeman. I have read a lot of crime books and wanted to be a crime buster. Most of my guys in the Police force now are in top positions; maybe I would have become a Police Commissioner by now.
ALI OR TYSON
I would have said Tyson because he comes with all the power of George Foreman, but Ali will any day go the distance as much as 15 rounds with Tyson. I love Tyson, but Ali was the greatest. I go for Ali
JOSHUA VS FURY VS WILDER
Boxing these days is more of entertainment. It is not as brutal as it used to be. I don’t see AJ not advancing well. Anytime from now, I see him fighting Tyson Fury or Deontay Wilder. I prefer he fights Wilder, who has not fought man big names. AJ has fought Joseph Parker, Wladimir Klitschko, and other big names. If AJ meets Deontey, I believe that he will win.
ON NBB OF C
If there is a rift between the promoter and boxer, they come to us. We look at the contract signed by a boxer and if the boxer tries to play a fast one on the promoter by going to another person that can pay more, we ask him to honour the signed contract, and if he refuses, he can be sanctioned. That is the role we play. We safeguard the promoters’ money for the boxer.
BOXING & JOB CREATION
Boxing can create jobs for over four million people in Nigeria. In Lagos alone, on my list I have about 200 boxers, and no matter how bad, 40 will be good boxers. In Ibadan, they will be up to 200. A boxer needs at least four people for a bout; coaches, physician and manager.
TO BE A GOOD BOXER
It’s easy to be a boxer, and in actual fact anybody can be a boxer all you need is the interest, and as long as you are medically fit you will come with your coach to us (NBB of C). You will be issued a license you will then put on gloves get into the ring and either gets beaten or you beat your opponent, either win or lose you will be referred to as a “Champ” all boxers are champs.
But to be a good amateur boxer you must train hard and win most of your fights and thus get an opportunity to represent the country at international meets then you are referred to as a good amateur boxer. But to be a good pro boxer you must train very hard, keep your body in tremendous physical condition, spend majority of your youths life in the boxing gym by cutting out unnecessary excesses, as explained by Muhammad Ali, the actual boxing is done in the gym (training), what people pay to come and watch on bouts days is the entertainment aspect of the game.
HOBBIES & PHILOSOPHY
I just finished reading Segun Adeniyi’s book on late Nigeria president, Umaru Yar’Adua. When I was younger I used to finish a book in one and a half days. I read all the Hardly Chase, Nick Carter and Harold Robbins series. I believe that everything in life has been ordained by God. I believe so much in God. God is in charge of every one’s life.
FASHION & STYLE
I love to dress simply. When I am travelling, I wear knickers, polo shirt and slippers, due to the stress of checking in. However on big occasions such as boxing convention abroad I will wear my agbada (Yoruba flowing robe), and the westerners usually notice me and scramble to take pictures with me. Aside from that, I go with whatever is trending.
Remi Aboderin: Anthony Joshua not Nigeria’s best