Tucked in a secluded corner of the MKO International Stadium, Abeokuta, is the Dunkin Pepper Gym. The facility, according to those who frequent the stadium, normally receives trickles of keep fit enthusiasts. But for three days last week (13-15 September), it was hive-busy, as it hosted the fourth edition of GOtv Boxing NextGen Search.
The programme, established in 2015 to discover and develop talented young boxers, drew a record attendance of 150 boxers. Each of them carried a dream of impressing the judges of the sparring sessions. They came from five states of Abia, Enugu, Oyo, Ondo, Lagos and Ogun, as well as the Federal Capital Territory, FCT.
The sparring sessions, which we held over the first two days, saw flickers of genuine but still raw boxing talents on display. Each dream-fuelled boxer made attempts at impressing the judges, who included gilded coaches like Joe Mensah, Obisia Nwakpa and ex-Olympian Jerry Okorodudu, President of the Nigerian Boxing Board of Control (NBB of C), Dr. Rafiu Ladipo, and Remi Aboderin, (NBB of C) Secretary-General.
Due to the large attendance, the assessors had their hands full gauging the ability as well as the mentality of each boxer. Ability, application and mentality ranked high on the criteria for selection.At the end of a very competitive two days of action, 20 boxers were found worthy by the assessors to move up the ladder into the pro-ranks. According to the assessors, the selected boxers ticked the right boxes and met their criteria needed to excel in the professional cadre.
As it has become customary, the most impressive among those selected were recognised. Opeyemi Elijah, an 18-year old bantamweight, was adjudged to be the best boxer after he impressed the assessors. Elijah’s triumph is an example to people to never give up, even in trying times. The youngster attended last year’s edition of the programme held in Ibadan, and impressed the judges, but was thought to be a year too young than required. Elijah returned for this year’s edition burning with zeal and it was no surprise that he emerged top on the list of boxers.
He was joined by Akintayo Aminu and Shogbanmu Waheed, who were adjudged as the second and third best boxers of the programme respectively. The trio received GOtv decoders as gifts for their exploits.Speaking at the closing ceremony, Jenkins Alumona, Managing Director, Flykite Productions, organisers of the event, commiserated with the boxers who were unlucky to be selected. He urged them not to despair, noting that opportunities abound for them in subsequent editions of the programme.
“That you have not been chosen today should not mean the end of your dream. You must promise yourself that you would do better next time. It does not mean that you will not be champions at some point in your careers. A few of those selected today were at the last edition in Ibadan and were not selected then,” he said.
He also congratulated the selected boxers and advised them to cherish the platform, which they are being provided with to begin their professional boxing career. He announced that all the selected boxers will have their professional licences paid for, and will also undergo free pro-licensing medical examination courtesy of the sponsors, GOtv.