Apostle Peter Oboh walked the length and breadth of the boxing ring in the 90s like a colossus. He was so feared by his opponents, that they dreaded challenging him for a bout. And because of this, his camp had to pay his opponents extra money to attract a fight.
Former Commonwealth Light Heavyweight champion, Pastor Peter Oboh, who wishes now to be called Apostle Peter, was also the British Light Heavyweight champion, WBA Inter Continental Light Heavyweight and Nigeria’s Commonwealth number one contender before Abacha killed Saro Wiwa.
Apostle Peter had fame, money and all the pernaphenelia that goes with a champion, but inwardly, spiritually, he was not fulfilled.
He spoke to Paul Erewuba and Tony Ogaga
How did your boxing career begin?
When I was young, there was what we called boxing politics. And I felt I should engage in boxing, train and leave it there.. There’s also what you call pedigree, in 1992, I came back to Nigeria for the Olympics trial. Although, I was number one in Nigeria, I was not chosen, even though I trained in the national camp for nine months. They chose the boxer who was second to me. If I new, I would have come back for the next Olympics. Because once you are and Olympian, most people would want to count on you. But in all my professional boxing career, I fought the best. I was Boxing Light Heavyweight, I was Boxing Cruiser Heavyweight.
I turned my disadvantage to advantage. I learnt boxing in the hard way. To me, Joshua is a good fighter, but he went the easy way. I went through the rudiments of boxing so I have boxing experience.
What motivated you in choosing boxing as a career?
I entered boxing by accident, I was a Blackbelt holder in Taekwondo that was before the Olympics in Los Angeles. Later I watched Mohammed Ali defeat George Foreman, that was how I made up my mind to become a boxer. But I didn’t plan to become a boxer, it happened by accident.
When I traveled abroad, the man I stayed with was a commissioner, an ex-boxer, he had a gym.
As a Nigerian clever man, I had free accommodation at that time.
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Did your parents support your being a boxer?
No, they did not. My mother said no way, but at that time, my dad worked with the President and he was the pay master at that time. But I had to be stubborn but it is boxing that now brought us together.
Looking at boxing now in Nigeria, what would be your take?
I have to be frank with you, boxing in Nigeria has gone down. I remember the days of Joe Lasisi, Jerry Okorodudu, he never won any medal at the Olympics but he is popular.
Joe Lasisi was just an African champion, but he was so popular.
What do you think was responsible for that?
I think the down slide of boxing in Nigeria is as a result of neglect. Anything you neglect will surely deteriorate. Boxing is the only sport that won the first medal for Nigeria in an Olympics by Nogeem Mayegun who won bronze. Boxing is the only sport in Nigeria to also win a silver. Hogan Bassey was the first African to win a world title. We have a boxing foundation in Nigeria.
Could it be that there are no facilities for boxers to train?
In boxing, you don’t need much facilities. You have to have a punching bag with a skipping rope in the ring. And boxing is a sport you can enter as a semi adult, as a teenager. You cannot compare boxing to swimming, in swimming you start as a toddler. in Boxing the facilities are not that much. What a boxer needs is what we call financial encouragement. That is the secret.
Some boxers in the course of their fight alleged that juju was used on them by their opponents. Does juju work in boxing?
Yes I remember when Jerry Okorodudu accused Joe Lasisi of using juju on him when they were boxing, alleging that he saw double each time Lasisi’s punch landed on his face. When I went abroad and met some boxers, I saw stars too (laughs). I think that was why he was talking about juju. I believe there is no juju in boxing.
Did boxing give you the money you wanted?
I don’t know wether to say yes. But I would say I’m comfortable. I entered boxing because of the fun of it. Before you discover boxing takes all your life. For you to be a champion, you have to make it your priority. When you put it first, as a professional, something will have to come in. Boxing needs most of your time. I was an amateur, number one in Nigeria. If I heard gone to the Olympics I probably would have won a medal for Nigeria at that time.
What they were doing was to march me with an opponent that had about seven fights already. Most times I’m always the underdog. But by the Grace of God I was able to prevail in a way.
How did you feel when you won the Commonwealth title?
Something happened. At that time, I changed camp, to Lenox Lewis camp. Big camp makes champions. He advised me to get myself the Commonwealth title, and we did an elimination bout which I won. Unfortunately, Nigeria was expelled from the Commonwealth when Abacha killed Saro Wiwa.
So I was not allowed to box in the Commonwealth. And I was Commonwealth number one. Some one now gave me an advise to write to the Mayor of London for citizenship, I did that and I was awarded a citizenship. I was then allowed to box in the Commonwealth, and I won. That was how my career exploded.
But while I was boxing as a British champion, most people did not know I’m a Nigerian.
With you becoming a champ, how were you able to manage fame, women, and booze?
Being a champion, you have to fight to the top and remain there. But luckily for me, at this particular time, I already had Christianity awareness. Because of this, I was able tp avoid, women, drugs and booze, as it were. Once in a while I had girld friend, but whenever such thing happens I have something disturbing my spirit, telling me to stay away from this kind of lifestyle.
I never drank alcohol in my life, because I had always believed that alcohol will not help me in the sport. I never smoked either because i was so cautious, I know that smoke destroys. It can even lead to heart problem, so I tried to avoid things that ruin my future.
Was there a time you felt you were not getting what you wanted in boxing?
No. I was the only boxer in England that had a British title that had title, but no opponent. Because I was punching very hard, you know I have black belt in Taekwondo 9laughs). So I was known as the proverbial ‘one blow seven akpus’. Any hook that connects to your face, be sure to see seven stars (laughs). My opponents were so afraid of me because of the punching power that I had. Because of that, getting fights was not that easy. So we had to pay them big money to come, thank God I was with a big promoter then.
With the risk in boxing, would you encourage any of your children to go into the sport?
Yes, if the child starts preparing well. Boxing is not as dangerous as people think, even riding an okay is more dangerous than boxing. In okada you submit your life to the okader rider, but in boxing your life is in your hands. And in boxing, try to be the winner and not the loser. You become immuned to punches as you box.
What was your high and low moments in boxing?
My high moment is when I win, my low moment was when I lost. But there were some fights which I lost which I knew I would have won. As a boxer you go for the best promoters. There are managers for losers and winners. I never knew that before, I discovered it myself. I learnt the secrets of becoming a champion. I belong to the 1992 Olympics. Africans should learn to build up their own champions. Hogan Bassey, Joe Lasisi were build up by Nigerians. The British will not come and build up your own champions for you.
Joshua is a World Heavyweight champion, do you see him going far?
He’s one of the best Heavyweights for now. But I have a little issue with him.
He does not have 100 per cent confidence of himself. He is still operating like an European champion. He should leave London and go to America to beat Wilder. He is operating below his level. He should watch it.
How was your childhood like?
As a young man that was building the castle in the air, my dream was to become a military officer, and one day become a Field Mashall. My dad was in the army and didn’t want me there, because of then coups and all that.
Was it that he thought you could come to Army and one day plot a coup?
May be something like that (laughs). But he programmed us, not in the army.
I was experiencing God while I was boxing and at the same time getting miracles. So as time past, I became closer and closer to the things of God. I then joined a ministry and became born again. Then I kept having a dream and seeing myself in Africa, helping the poor and preaching to people. But my spirit rejected it. I said no, that is not for me. I said my mind is to become a world champion. With time things kept happening and happening and it got to a point a Pastor spirit started ministering while I was still a boxer. Now I had to make a choice whether to continue boxing or not.
So what did you sacrifice, you had a life before going into the ministry?
The calling got so strong and I now discovered at a point I started feeling sorry for my opponent after I might have hit them very hard. That killer instinct was departing from me and the spirit of God kept creeping into my subconsciousness.After I became a Christian, I sold my building and shared the money.
Didn’t your family members think you were crazy?
They were already seeing me as a mad man (laughs). They thought something was wrong somewhere.
What would be your advice to you ones who want to take boxing as a career?
Be determine, and know what you are doing. And above all stay away from women, alcohol, and drugs because they will destroy you as a boxer.