By Jacob Ajom
Hate him or like him Bashiru Ali, popularly called Bash Ali remains steadfast in his self belief. The former WBF World Cruiserweight champion who was 63 last month has not given up on his desire to enter the record books as the oldest boxer to challenge for a world title, thus putting his name and that of his fatherland, Nigeria in the Guinness Book of World Record.
“I want to appeal to Mr President, who has approved the fight to do everything possible to see that the historic event holds here in Nigeria,” the boxer said while answering questions from this reporter during the week.
Bash has had several challenges since the plan to enter the Guinness Book of World Record began about 13 years ago. Several assurances from successive governments since the Chief Olusegun Obasanjo administration are yet to materialise into something concrete as no fewer than two Local Organising Committees have been set up. The first LOC was set up by the National Sports Commission on November 9th, 2006 headed by the then Sports Minister, Bala Bawa Kaoje.
The same committee was re-inaugurated by Kaoje’s successor, Barrister Tammy Danagogo on January 7th, 2014 with different members from the initial committee for the purpose of organising the world record fight.
Because of the huge cost involved in organising the fight, the LOC sought sponsorship from two major partners and other co-sponsors from the private sector.
The fight was originally projected to attract revenue to the tune of five hundred million dollars.
The former Director General of the defunct National Sports Commission, Al-Hassan Yakmut in a memo to the then Permanent Secretary stated in beautiful terms the benefits of staging the World record fight in Nigeria: “Having considered the enormous economic, political and social benefits this world Boxing championship will attract to the country, I wish to recommend His Excellency Mr President’s endorsement for the fight to be staged in Nigeria as well as call on corporate Nigeria to fully support the event
“Consequently, and having considered the economic benefits, His Excellency Mr President may wish to approve some take-off grant for the LOC.”
That was on August 12, 2015. Following the appointment of Barrister Solomon Dalung as Sports Minister and the subsequent redeployment of Yakmut to another ministry, Bash Ali has hit a brickwall. According to the boxer, the initial impression the Minister gave was that of support as he had pledged the federal government’s readiness to create the enabling environment for the fight to hold. Dalung spoke when Ali and his entourage visited him on his appointment to acquaint him with preparations for the fight.
“I must commend Bash Ali for his courage. There are many Nigerians out there that don’t have the courage to fight their just cause, but Ali did not relent despite daunting challenges,” the Minister was quoted as saying.
“Suddenly, the minister changed gear,” Ali recalled, wondering, “why he has refused to call for a meeting of the LOC, I do not know. And that has stalled the progress made so far.”
But Bash Ali remains steadfast. With the new interest shown in the fight by the Vice President, Professor Osinbajo, the pugilist said everything is working according to plan. “We have held two meetings with His Excellency, the Vice President and he has given me assurance, as far as the fight is concerned.” Ali said.
Time is almost running out for Bash as the International Boxing Union has given the Nigerian boxer a deadline for the fight to hold. In a letter dated January 3, 2019 and signed by the IBU Chairman, Don “Moose” Lewis, the boxing body gave June 28, 2019 as deadline for the fight to hold.
“Should you before the end of of business day of Friday June 28, 2019 fail to get your President to keep to his promise, I have no choice but to inform the promoters to move to the next available contender for the title.”
Despite that threat from the IBU, Bash believes his time has come. “I will surprise the world. I am in top shape and ready for the fight. If you doubt me, come watch me train.”