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The Resurgence Of The Nigerian Boxing Scene

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The Resurgence Of The Nigerian Boxing Scene

Last December, I took my family to watch our first live boxing fights together on Boxing Day at the well-appointed Landmark Centre, Victoria Island. My wife had never cared for the sport but by the end of the night, she had become a big fan of Olaide ‘Fijaborn’ Fijabi and the other pugilists who won their fights during that event. I was a happy man because the VIP tickets that I bought had achieved the entertainment value that I wanted for the family. I had also gotten new converts to the ‘sweet science’ as well as supporting the burgeoning Nigerian boxing scene.

The GOtv Boxing Nights have begun a resurgence of the local boxing economy with the staging of professional fights quarterly that have led to the emergence of other events like the Last Man Standing, Naija Boxing Rumble and this weekend’s ‘Chaos in Lagos’ staged by Kwese Sports. Many boxers who spent their prime in the amateur ranks have found an opportunity to earn a decent living as professionals with one boxer taking home between 1.5m and 2.5m Naira as bonuses. As they have begun to get paid fairly decent wages to fight, the audiences are treated to improved fight cards. One of the early fights that I saw at the Indoor Hall of the National Stadium in Surulere even featured kids, perhaps due to a lack of interest from the older boxers. However, that has now changed with decent professionals coming through at every event and title fights being a regular staple leading to the boxers becoming recognisable names.

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Like many things, the Nigerian boxing scene dipped in the years of military rule as professional fight events ceased to exist. In the past, boxers were a staple in local papers according to a recent report by the AFP. Nigeria had produced world champions in Hogan Bassey and Dick Tiger in the ‘50s and ‘60s. David Izonritei won Nigeria’s last boxing silver medal at the Olympic Games in 1992. But the local scene has been unable to create opportunities for boxers to thrive professionally. The fortunate ones move to the United States or the United Kingdom to find good payday and ranking points for their shot at world titles. The less fortunate remain amateurs until they expire. From Samuel Peters to as recently as Efe Ajagba who fought at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro and is now a budding star under the Mayweather Promotions, Nigerian boxers have always looked abroad for salvation.

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But the GOtv Fight Nights that started as a brand-building idea has become a forerunner for the boxing scene. There’s no doubt that television is important for the growth and popularity of sports. With the decline of the national broadcaster, the NTA in the ‘90s, much of domestic sport has faced dire conditions. Private broadcasters like the AIT tried to resuscitate interest in boxing with one-off fights like the Bash Ali shindigs of yore but there was no consistency to ensure that the sport took root.

The investments by GOtv and new entrants Kwese TV are helping to shine a light on the sport that is widely followed across the world. The global success of a kin like Anthony Joshua makes us see the potential in the sport once more. Packed stadia, massive brand support, pay-per-view TV, product endorsements, etc. Can Nigeria build domestic boxing superstars? Boxers that are nurtured from here that would bring world title fights to the main-bowl of the Teslim Balogun Stadium?

No doubt, this is a multi-million dollar industry but we have yet to scratch the surface of it. Speaking at the launch of the Naija Boxing Rumble, a boxing reality show a few weeks ago, Dr Rafiu Ladipo, the president of the Nigeria Boxing Board of Control (NBBofC) called for more promoters to come into the sport to help it grow. Jenkins Alumona, MD of Flykite Promotions, the company behind the GOtv Fight Nights, said his dream is to produce a Nigerian world champion soon. “Gate fees are never enough, we need more brands to come on board, that’s the only way we can sustain the growth of the domestic boxing scene,” he said.

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This weekend, Tony Salam goes into a grudge rematch against Zimbabwe’s Sting Gonorenda at the Federal Palace Hotel for the WBF African Cruiserweight title. It is the kind of fights that the domestic scene requires to draw crowds to ensure increased visibility for the sport. Hopefully, we’ll see a major world title fight involving Fijabi in the next few years, I am sure my family would be eager to return to ringside for that one. We’ll be cheering for him all through.

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Nigerian News

NIMC Extends Diaspora Enrolment Of Nigerians To UK, UAE

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NIMC Extends Diaspora Enrolment Of Nigerians To UK, UAE

The National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) has extended enrolment of Nigerians under the diaspora registration programme to the United Kingdom and United Arab Emirates.

Commission spokesperson, Loveday Ogbonna, said the commission has decided to extend the enrolment to these two countries after the huge success in South Africa.

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Ogbonna says the extension is in line with NIMC’s mandate to ensure all Nigerian citizens at home and abroad, as well as legal residents in Nigeria, were enrolled into the national identity database and issued the unique national identification number.

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Ogbonna said DEFCON systems limited, DSL, and the National Authentication Limited (NEAL) are the two Nigerian companies licensed by NIMC to handle the enrolment services across the globe to ensure best-in-class services and inclusivity.

He said the enrolment will involve demographic & biometric data capture of all Nigerian citizens residing in the two countries.

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The UAE programme is scheduled to take off today, while the UK programme kicks off on Friday.

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Nigerian News

Offa Robbery: Court Grants Defence Request To Examine Gunshot Injuries

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Offa Robbery: Court Grants Defence Request To Examine Gunshot Injuries

A Kwara State High Court sitting in Ilorin has ruled in favor of the defence counsel who asked for an independent examination of the alleged gunshot injuries sustained by three accused persons alleged to have participated in last year’s robbery incident in Offa.

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Thirty-three persons, including nine policemen, were killed during the robbery, while five accused persons are standing trial.

But the court refused a post-mortem examination on the corpse of the principal suspect in the robbery incident, Michael Adikwu, whom the accused persons claimed, was deliberately killed by a police inspector while in custody at the force headquarters in Abuja.

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Earlier, the 5th accused person (Niyi Ogundiran), had narrated to the court how the police extracted confessional statements from him under duress.

The case has been adjourned till early April.

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Nigerian News

There Are Plans To Revisit And Deliver The National Carrier Project – Aviation Minister

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There Are Plans To Revisit And Deliver The National Carrier Project - Aviation Minister

Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, has revealed that there are plans to deliver the national carrier project during president Buhari’s administration.

Sirika says the federal government will revisit the project which he describes as the brain-child of the president.  He said the president would not let it die.

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The minister said this while defending the ministry’s budget before the senate committee on aviation in Abuja.

He said the ministry only suspended the project to put adequate measures in place.  He also expressed concern that Nigeria is not able to boast of a national carrier, despite being a huge aviation market.

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The minister says the national carrier project is a Public Private Partnership (PPP). The private sector will lead and deliver, while the government will play its role.

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He said the process would be transparent and would be done through local and international fora and media.

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