Former World Boxing Federation (WBF) Cruiserweight champion, Bash Ali has blamed corruption and bad administration for the delay of his much-awaited Guinness World Record fight in Nigeria.
In this interview, Ali, who has the highest national honour ever awarded to a Nigerian athlete, Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON) and the third Nigerian to win a world boxing title after Dick Tiger and Hogan Kid Bassey, is hoping that the new Minister of Sports, Sunday Dare, would correct the mistakes of his predecessors by bringing the fight to fruition.
You’ve not fought since 2004, so how can you still call yourself a world boxing champion?
On Sept 9, 2000, I fought then WBF Cruiserweight Champion, Terry Ray, USA, at the National Stadium, in Lagos. I knocked him out in the eight round to win the title. I was offered $1.5million to have a return match while a group in Germany offered me $2.1million to fight a German boxer in Germany. I agreed to the German fight, but the WBF president stripped me of my title for not agreeing to a rematch with Terry Ray because he was his manager by proxy. I sued the WBF in court for wrongfully stripping me off my title. California Superior Court in Oakland, California, USA, found them guilty and restored my title to me with a wage loss compensation of $.1million and damages of $5million. The $2.1million was paid, but they appealed the $5million judgment, which is now worth over $20million. Now, I have the receivership to the WBF to satisfy the damages. The court, in the permanent injunction, stipulated that I can never again be stripped of my title unless I lose it inside the boxing ring. You can see that the injustice done to me in 2000 has turned out to be a great blessing today. I’m the only boxer to have the control of a boxing body. I’m truly great.
What is your professional boxing record?
I have the best boxing record in the Cruiserweight division. I have 75 wins, 57 knockouts 12 losses. I have avenged six of my earlier losses.
You’ve been retired since 2004, so why the come back?
I’ve never been retired. My last fight was in 2004, when I knocked out the then British Cruiserweight Champion, Tony Booth, in the fourth round. It was after that fight that we started to plan the Guinness World Record Boxing Championship fight, but corruption and bad administration delayed it.
What is this Guinness World Record Boxing Championship fight about?
The Guinness World Record (GWR) Boxing Championship Fight will put me in the GWR book as the oldest boxer to fight for a world title and to also defend his title. Do not forget that I’m still the WBF Cruiserweight Boxing champion. Once I step inside that boxing ring at the young age of 63 years, win, lose or draw, I would have made history as the oldest boxer to fight and defend his title, but I want to make positive history as the oldest boxer to successfully defend his title and win another title. I must win and that is my goal. That is my goal. Once I step inside the ring on fight night, I make boxing history that will never again be broken by any boxer, at least, not in this life. Maybe, in another life.
Who is the oldest boxer to win a world boxing title and at what age?
The name is Bernard Hopkins of USA, at the age of 49 years 95 days. He was a middleweight boxer. He set the GWR in 2014.
You had several juicy offers to have this historic fight outside the country, but you insist it must be in Nigeria. Why?
As we are conducting this interview, I cannot boast of one US dollar, but I turned down €50million and 30 percent of estimated $1.5billion in Pay Per View TV Revenue to host the fight in another country, but I said no to the offer because I believe in my country Nigeria, and, above all, I want to rewrite boxing history in my country. George Foreman set the GWR in his country, USA. Muhammad Ali set the GWR in his country, USA, Mike Tyson set the GWR in his country, USA. Bernard Hopkins set the GWR in his country, USA. Joe Bugner, the only boxer to break the GWR jinx from holding in USA, set it in his country, Australia. And when it came to the turn of a Nigerian to rewrite boxing history in his country, it became an unpardonable crime because of corruption and bad administration. I want to break the jinx that you cannot make it in Nigeria unless you compromise. I must break the jinx.
Is it true that you have been jailed and detained severally in the struggle to host this historic fight in Nigeria?
Hahahaha…! Yes, it is true. I’ve been detained eight times at several police stations in Abuja, and once spent 43 days in Kuje Prison (Feb 9-April 2, 2015) all because I said no to corruption and bad administration. Policemen at the Ministry of Sports and Nexim Bank in Abuja also beat me that I had to spend days (September 1-9, 2014) at the National Hospital, Abuja, to treat myself. In Feb 2017, I spent two days at the National Hospital in Abuja to treat myself from the beating I received from the policemen attached to then sports minister, Solomon Dalung. Despite all these beatings, detentions, humiliations and negative reports in several national and international newspapers, topmost the New York Times, that I’m campaigning in vain in Nigeria to host a GWR fight, I never gave up on Nigeria. The corrupt government officials can detain me, they can beat me, but they can never deport me because I’m a Nigerian.
What is the benefit of this fight to Nigeria?
A GWR Fight has never held on the soil of Africa, so this would be the first and the most lucrative boxing event in the history of Pay Per View Television. As we are throwing punches in Nigeria, it will be shown live on PPV TV in 132 countries and will be watched by an estimated audience of between 15-20 million people at the rate of $100 per viewer for a $1.5million minimum PPVTV revenue. And the most important reason is that should the fight go the 12 rounds distance, I will get a fair decision because out of the three judges, there will be a Nigerian, American and a neutral judge, but if it holds outside and it goes the 12 rounds distance, I will be robbed of the decision because they will not want a Nigerian to occupy that special place in the GWR as the oldest boxer to win and successfully defend a world title. It is called boxing politics. I want to win in Nigeria, and I also want my country to get all the benefits that come with a GWR fight.
Take us through your 13 years struggle to host this historic fight in Nigeria?
It started on November 9, 2006, when President Olusegun Obasanjo, through the National Sports Commission, inaugurated the Bash Ali Boxing Project Local Organising Committee to organise in Nigeria the first GWR Fight to hold on the soil of Africa. The corrupt government officials wanted money for themselves instead of Nigeria, and my saying no to them made them put the fight aside. I was told that the only way the fight would hold was for me to agree to share government money. On January 7, 2014, the then president, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, again, inaugurated another Bash Ali Boxing Project LOC, and the same corruption and bad administration took over, and, as usual, I said no.
On May 29, 2015, PMB became the president and I wrote a detailed letter to him about the unnecessary struggle I had been through in my quest to bring honour, glory and financial growth to Nigeria through sports, and in less than a week after receiving the letter, PMB, again, approved the hosting in Nigeria. I met with the then sports minister, Solomon Dalung and fought him for almost three years to call for a meeting with the LOC members, but he refused. I took my fight to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo before Dalung finally, on May 21, 2019, called for a meeting and inauguration of the LOC.
There are 15 possible opponents, and once everything is together, we shall sign an opponent and make it public. We’ve signed many opponents in the past and nothing positive happened because of corruption and bad administration, so, this time, we want to make sure that all things are in place before we sign an opponent.
Is it true that the Federal Government is financing this historic event?
NO, it’s being financed by the private sector inaugurated by the Federal Government. The federal government has put together a solid group to host this historic event and, right now, I’m 100 percent confident that this time around, corruption and bad administration will be knocked out.
What is your message for the new sports minister?
He should put Nigeria first and always remember that sports is one of the biggest industries in the world, and that if well organised in Nigeria, would earn big money for the country.
When is the fight date?
The proposed date is November 30, 2019, and the venue will be determined by the state that bids the highest. The opening bid is $1million. This is big business, so let us milk it to the bone.