…Slams Sports ministry for lack of sports policy
BY PAUL EREWUBA
Former Nigerian boxing icon, Paul Onwuachi popularly called ‘White Horse’, by his admirers, said he is the saddest man in the boxing profession in the country, following a series of injustices meted out to him by those who saw him as a threat to their selfish desire.
White Horse who is in his late sixties revealed in Lagos that he had put in more than 40 years in the profession, but today has virtually nothing to show for his labour.
Born in Amaigbo, same village with boxing legend, Dick Tiger Ihetu of blessed memory in Nwangele Local Government Area of Imo State, Nwachi is married with four children.
Among the boxers that White Horse coached are Joe Lasisi, Ndubuisi Emeribe,
Blessing Okon, (a female boxer), Nurudeen Oyedeji known as Hunter Clay, who was WBC continental champion in 1983, Godsisi, Ndubuisi Emeribe, fwin Anyaemelem, who later won the WBC world champion, Bash Ali, Jerry Okorodudu among others.
“I began my boxing career in 1964. It was the fight between Dick Tiger and Abraham Tonica in Port Harcourt, which I watched, which triggered my interest.
“I was staying with one of my uncles, who did not support my idea of venturing into boxing as a profession. I had to relocate to one of my younger brothers who gave me the support that I needed.
“My parents refused to allow me go into boxing, but I was determined to eke out a living from the profession.
“My breakthrough was at a local championship organized by Shell Club in Port Harcourt for the Eagles Club Boxing tourney. My club, Igwe Nkem Boxing Club was invited to take on visiting Aba Boxing Club.
“During my fight, I pummeled my opponent to submission. I was something else that night as I moved fast on the floor and never got tired. The foreigners, mainly whites hailed me. They even arranged to take me to London for further training, but the Nigerian civil war scuttled my traveling plans.
“It was during that fight that I was nicknamed White Horse. Chief Michael Okpara, the then East Central State governor watched the fight and when he saw my dexterity he nicknamed me White Horse because of my physical strength.
“I won my first gold medal in 1977, when I represented Nigeria at the World Armed Forces Games in Russia.
On the local scene, I was a national lightwelter weight champion for four years, between 1973 and 1978. I represented Nigeria in Scandinavia, Finland and Sweden in 1975 and 1976 respectively, where I won all my fights and clinched the gold medal in the lightweight category.
During the Cuba-Nigeria Games in 1977, I won a gold medal after winning all my fights in the weight category. More than eight countries participated in the games.
On the local scene, I was a lightwelter weight champion of Lagos State in 1973 before I won the national championship in Lagos in 1974.
On retirement I worked as a boxing coach and a gym attendant and I had produced a lot of boxers in Nigeria in spite of the injustices I suffered in the hands of those who were supposed to encourage me.
“For many years, I had no home. I lived in the Late Brai Ayonote gym building with my family after which the NSC drove me out of the place. I was not given a job, and I had no money to rent a flat in Lagos.
“I regret involving myself in Nigeria boxing because of the way and manner the sports ministry treat ex-internationals, especially boxers and coaches. Today, it is almost impossible to see both retired and current Nigerian boxers eating three meals a day. The country does not encourage boxers, infact, boxing is dead.
“I was employed by the Sports ministry through the Nigerian Amateur Boxing Association (NABA) as a boxing coach after obtaining my coaching certificate at the Nigeria Institute for Sports (NIS), Lagos in 1982.
After graduation, I applied as a coach and gym attendant in NABA, but due to tribalism, and nepotism. I was pushed aside. I was never taken. They never cared for my welfare. Now I don’t have anything, no job and the Imo State Government has never done anything for me as an indigene, I live by the help of friends. It’s a pity that Nigeria does not know how to treat its heroes.”
Though what he is passing through is enough to derail the dreams of lily livered man, Nwachi has, however, advised boxing administrators to bring the sport back to its glorious days by churning out sustained sports policies that would promote boxing.
He lamented the fire brigade attitude of preparing Nigerian athletes for international competitions, saying it is one of the major problems that have dwarfed the sport in recent time.
“You will agree with me that boxing as a sport has died in Nigeria. Where are the likes of the Obisia Nwakpas, Jerry Okorodudus, Abrahan Tonicas, Nkozika Wkwelums, Dick Tigers, Eddie Ndukwus, just to mention but a few? We do not have sports policy that can drive our sport any longer. Even when we have international competitions, we tend to drag foot until the last minute before we start preparation.
“I tell you, until we go back to the basis, exhume our sports policy and treat athletes fairly, we will continue to get it wrong in sports,” White Horse submitted.