For Ridwan Oyekola, winner of the 15th edition of GOtv Boxing Night Award, life on top is sweet having experienced an extremely rough ride.
Clutching his one million naira bromide cheque, the cash prize that goes with the award, Oyekola, aka Scorpion, says it is the best thing to happen to his career since he turned professional.
The Ibadan- based boxer was clearly the stand out performer of the night as he defeated Prince ‘Lion’ Nwoye by a unanimous decision in their national lightweight challenge bout at the Obafemi Awolowo Stadium, (formerly known as Liberty Stadium) Ibadan-Oyo State.
Life has not been so rosy for Oyekola, who once hawked drugs and poultry and was a commercial motorcycle operator at different times before becoming a boxer.
Armed with only a secondary school certificate, Oyekola had little parental support as a youngster, and to make ends meet he had to do petty trading.
He said: “After I finished my secondary education at Islamic High School in Bashorun in Ibadan, I used to sell drugs at Agbeni in Ibadan. We call it ‘chemist work’. I started as an apprentice but when I graduated there was no money to establish. So I started to hustle and when there was no job I moved to Lagos to sell cockerel, broilers, and layers around Mowe. We used to put them inside cage and hawk them around Mowe and Ibafo that time. But when I saw people boxing in Mowe, I joined them and started learning boxing from them. I had to quit the job for boxing. If I had known that boxing will be my way, I would have put more efforts into it. Now I am dedicating my time to boxing and I thank God and GOtv for giving me the opportunity.”
In between amateur boxing and turning professional, he also operated commercial motorcycle.
“I was also riding okada (commercial motorcycle) in Ibadan before. I used to ply Gate-Bere-Molete to Challenge-Orita-New Garage-Podo and so on. It was one of my fans that stopped me from riding okada and began to take care of me till I got to this level.”
The signs of good things started from the National Sports Festival. “My first big tournament was the National Sports Festival (Gateway Games 2010). After the successful outing, I returned to Ibadan and continued to train and box and Oyo State Sports Council started paying me stipend. I was getting half salary from the state to support myself. I later turned professional and that gave me the opportunity to take part in more tournaments.”
Oyekola speaks more on his sojourn to stardom in this interview with AKEEM LAWAL: excerpts:
How did you feel after beating Prince Nwoye?
I was very happy. I can’t really describe my feeling on the night. I just knew that I am very happy to emerge victorious.
Nwoye really gave you a fight…
Yes! He really gave me a tough time. No fighter has ever given me a tough fight like Nwoye did. I never laboured like that since I took boxing as a career. But the fact that I prepared well, trained hard and fought very well too and then God was on my side. Nwoye really rattled me, I must tell you the truth.
The fans were really behind you…
The fan really gave me morale support. It got to a stage around the sixth round, I became fed up with the fight but the support I got from the fans propelled me to put everything I have into the fight.
What was going through your mind when you were declared the best boxer of the night?
I was very happy because I never expected it. I see it as God’s favour. That is what happens when He wants to favour His own.
How do you intend to spend the money?
Boxing money is not what you can spend alone. I will extend it to many people. At the end of the day, I will have to be contented with anything that remains for me.
What impact has GOtv Boxing Night brought into boxing?
Words cannot describe their contributions to the development of boxing in the country. If not for them, we boxer would have continued to suffer. They are really trying. If anyone said I would get a million from boxing, I would doubt such a person. GOtv has surprised so many people. It now pays to be a boxer in Nigeria. They have encouraged us and made us love boxing the more. They have also made more people to come into boxing.
Since you turned professional, how many fights have you gotten?
I have fought three fights since I turned professional. I fought Lukman Hogan Jimoh Jr at Boxing Night 13 and knocked him out in 17 seconds. My second was at another boxing show against Prince Lion Nwoye at Police College in Ikeja. I defeated him but because he was at home, it was declared a draw. He challenged me again and that was why we fought again in Ibadan at the GOtv Boxing Night 15.
How did you get into boxing?
I started boxing because I was being bullied in my area in Oje in Ibadan. It happened that one Sunday I was escorting my girlfriend and a guy intimidated me. I challenged him and the boy, who I did not know was a boxer, beat me like a baby. He embarrassed me in front of my girlfriend and her friends and I was ashamed. That was the reason I started to learn boxing. But when I started, my parents were against it. They won’t give me food or money because they believe it is bad boys that do boxing. They would ask if I wanted to be a street fighter, that a responsible person doesn’t do boxing. However, I was focused and was going for training without their knowledge. So while I was learning how to sell drugs, I would still go for training in the evening. After training, I would jog home.
When I started boxing and getting stipend, I stopped fending for myself and that made my parents to stop complaining about boxing. Now that they see that I am famous and people started referring to them as my parents, they are happy. They are now proud of me. I am happy that I have made something of myself through boxing. I am yet to reach my target in boxing. I am aiming higher.
I have the full support of my parents because whenever they walk on the street, people hail them as ‘daddy Scorpion’, and ‘mummy Scorpion’. I now support my parents and siblings financially.
After learning how to fight, were you able to get your girlfriend back?
She has gone her way but recently launched a comeback when she got to know I am now a famous boxer. You know how ladies do. But women are not my focus right now since I’ve gotten married. You know women can spoil one’s career if one is not careful.
Are you married and who is the lucky lady?
My wife Mariam is a nurse and she supports my boxing. It is her prayers that are working for me.
Are you the only boxer from your family?
By the grace of God, I am the only one doing boxing in my family. I am also the alfa in my family.
Will you allow you kids to take to boxing?
Only God knows the path everybody will take to be successful in life. If God says one of my children will take to boxing, all good. But if he says they will make it through other means, no problem. However, it is my wish that one of my kids take to boxing.
What is your advice to other boxers?
I want to urge boxers in the country not to relent. There will always be challenges, is it when you don’t have money and have to walk to training or when you only have gari to eat or when there is nothing to eat? When you have to go to training on empty stomach and won’t see anything to eat? They should not relent, keep praying, when you pray, there is nothing God cannot do. Even the money we are talking about is just a change. When God answers one’s prayer, it will get to a stage that people will not know how you make your money. Favour will just be coming from right, left and centre. You just have to endure, and there is no job that does not have its obstacles.
So what is your next target now?
I’m going to the next level. I’m ready to fight anyone and I know God is behind me. I don’t have any other job than boxing, so I’m always ready for anybody that challenges me.
Credit: The Nation Newspapers