By Jacob Ajom
It was a Sunday morning. He had just concluded his early morning walkout and was heading home. Tall, expansive, with broad, handsome face that had seen better days. His movement still bear the same energetic gait that headlined his early days as a wrestler, as every step he took left a deep footprint in its trail.
At 52, Tony Nwabueze alias Tony Destroyer is still yearning for more action, still nursing dreams – the ambition of crowning his flowering career with a Commonwealth title. For starters, Tony Destroyer is from Akumazi Mbuocha Agbor in Delta State. He is the African Super heavyweight belt holder. He has been holding the title jealously, since he won it in South Africa after defeating Bakayoko Ahidjo in the 80s. “I have had several fights since then and have remained undefeated.
I think it is time I took the next step to challenge for the Commonwealth crown,” the fine wrestler, who combines everything martial arts, including boxing, to make his fights a delight to watch. “My first sport was boxing. I fought under late Coach Hogan Bassey and I was Lagos and national champion in welterweight class for 8 years. I also have a black belt in Taekwondo and Kung Fu. So, I am an all-rounder.”
In all these, however, Tony made his name as a wrestler. His fine footwork, his devastating punches and kicks always put his opponents at the receiving end. Indeed, his being grounded in martial arts makes him the most dangerous customer in the ring. Tony Destroyer towers over his local rivals, and even when he dared wrestlers of international repute, he never disappointed.
He recalls, “I started as an amateur wrestler under the tutelage of legendary late Mike Bamidele in 1972. I won medals, gold, silver and bronze at several competitions, local and international. I fought as an amateur wrestler for 10 years before turning professional in the 80s. In 1986, I fought Johny Kwango of Great Britain at the National Stadium. Surprisingly, I defeated this world renowned wrestler and I immediately shot to limelight.”
“It has remained my most memorable fight to date. He was known as king of head butt. He sent late Power Mike out of the ring with one head butt. He was that dreadful.
“But when we met, it was difficult for him to apply his deadliest weapon, which was his head. I applied everything I learnt and gave him the beating of his life. After the fight, he was in the hospital for two weeks.
“After that, I went to South Africa to fight Bakayoko Ahidjo for the African Super Heavy weight belt. In 1987, I successfully defended my title against Super Amaki from Cameroon. It was a blody fight as he was shorter and very aggressive. I was able to defeat him.
“My last defence was against Rosco of Mali September 4, last year. Altogether, I have had 25 fights since I won the title.”
After holding the belt for so long without any meaningful challenge, Tony Destroyer said he wants to take another step to further his career, which, no doubt, is in its twilight. “I will challenge for the Commonwealth Super heavyweight title, presently held by a Briton. But I need the support of all well-meaning Nigerians, particularly, my state governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, who is the most sports-friendly governor in Nigeria. I will surely need his support and goodwill to propel me actualise my dream.”
Tony Destroyer’s ambition, like many other professional wrestlers in the country has severally been scuttled by the absence of a board. He said, “At the moment, we have no board. The last board we had naturally dissolved itself when Oliver Nwosu left the country about 20 years ago. We are suffering for lack of leadership. But its a reflection of the state of affairs generally. Wrestling is dead, and until the coming of Gotv boxing Night, boxing too was dead. Almost every sport is living in the past. Government must show equal attention it gives to football to all other sports.”
He expressed confidence that Governor Okowa will grant him audience before his Commonwealth title challenge, which comes up later this year. “During the visit, I will present my belt and assure him of bringing bigger glory to the state and the country in general.”