By Trigo Egbegi
TEN years is an awfully long time for any man to plunge neck-deep into the murky waters of professional boxing and remain therein, and by which period preliminary layers of the dreaded scar tissues that is the boxers traditional curse have become considerably manifest.
This is also the period during which the boxer is expected to have sufficiently registered his standing among his peers, in terms of skill level and overall ability – or lack of it – for proper reckoning, either as a viable business material or as mere entertainment commodity.
Ten years is a period within which the fighter in question should be able to give full definition to his career mission, as to whether, indeed he is in this business either as a bona fide thoroughbred in the pack, or as misfit/pretender in contention strictly to make the numbers.
The percentage ratio as per above reads a lopsided 20/80, at best.
Ten years, is also enough time for the boxer to have established a comfortable financial base off his earnings, and indications of healthier purses ahead. After all, a boxer’s prime consideration is a sound financial guarantee he can fall back on when he eventually bids bye to the trade.
Above all, ten years is a period a man should be lending serious thoughts to quitting a sport with so much high-risk potential it is considered relatively unsafe for persons going past the mid-30 mark to operate at the highest level.
Even as authentic and realistic as has been proved, such theories do not always apply to the African boxer who comes into the game with all the wrong credentials, and who has to fight his way up (the ladder) against all the odds – imaginary and real – stacked against him.
To begin with, the boxer’s brain trust is not sure of the ward’s true age at the moment he makes the transition from the amateur cadre. As an unwritten rule, the African is closer to 30 years than 20 by the time he finally winds up with the unpaid ranks to join the pros.
The average home-based African entrant is, invariably , idle all through the first five/ten years as a pro, yet finds a way to trim his age to an acceptable figure, while at the same time fabricating an attractive career record on paper to impress prospective fight agents seeking cheap clientele.
These are the ones who serve as cannon fodder and crash at the first legitimate test that comes their way.
Probably the most famous name to rise through the domestic quagmire to prove himself and attain global greatness is our own Dick Ihetu Tiger who put in 19 solid years of ring warfare against the world’s best middleweight and light heavyweight names of his era.
Without the benefit of any recorded amateur background, dick Tiger crashed into Nigeria’s domestic pro scene as a 23-year-old lad in 1952. By 1955, the warrior from Amaigbo, Orlu (in present day Imo state) had cleaned out the local front, upon which he was given the opportunity to ply his wares in the United Kingdom.
By 1958, Tiger had become hot potato no British fight manager cherished pairing his ward with, and he had to relocate to the more competitive US. Still, it took Dick Tiger all of eleven years and age 33 to land his first (world middleweight) title.
Tiger continued to box at top class level until July 1970 when he retired, aged 41, with a grand total of 81 bouts under his belt.
Olusegun Ajose figured to be an exception when the exciting Nigerian Army ‘Ring Marshal’ set sail for the UK in his quest for fistic glory.
By all the standards established by Africa’s best ring men dating back to the 1950s, Ajose deserves to be mentioned alongside the likes of Azumah Nelson, Ayub Kalule, Nana Yaw Konadu, Ike ‘Bazooka’. Quartey and lately, Agbeko in the skill department. Only in ruggedness and power of punch does he occupy a back seat.
The irony of Ajose’s career lies in the fact here’s a damned good material with ten years of unblemished tuition to his credit, at a loss as to whither his fight career is drifting.
Here’s a brilliant ring artist who has in ten years sufficiently registered his standing among the world’s best super lightweight materials in terms of proven skill – with a perfect career record to match – who deserve to be reckoned with. He rates among the 20 percent of the 140 pounders classified as thoroughbreds.
In ten years, Ajose has given full definition to his career mission as one deserving of a world title shot, and the financial glitz that goes with such opportunity.
Concerning all the above, Olusegun Ajose remains one of boxing’s unsolved puzzles whom the sports power brokers have labeled as one to be avoided, for being too good for his own good.
In London where he has operated as base for ten years running, the message was trumpeted clear that Ol’ England has room for only her two sons, Ricky Hatton and Junior Witter. None for the dangerous Nigerian immigrant.
(To be continued next week)