20th February, 2012
Current International Women Boxing Federation, IWBF and Women International Boxing Association, WIBA, light heavyweight world champion, Nigerian Ijeoma Egbunine, who is based in the United States of America spoke to BIMBO AJAYI on the state of female boxing in Nigeria
What informed your decision to go into boxing, when there are other sports?
I went into boxing to fulfil the prophecy made by my pastor that I would become a world champion. My pastor, who is also my manager, prophesied to me that I would become a world champion someday. It was that prophecy that propelled me to become a boxer a year and three months later.
How do you feel being a world champion?
To be honest, I feel great. Being a world champion is a dream come true and I’m glad about it. It is a proof that the sky is the limit for any woman that is focused on whatever she finds herself doing.
Many Nigerians do not believe there is a future for female boxers. But I’m happy that I have been able to set the record straight that what a man can do, a woman can do better.
In addition, I see it as a way of empowering the women in the society. It is obvious that women now have more control over their lives and in every situation they find themselves.
Your fight has suffered so many setbacks, what steps are you taking to fight this year?
To be candid, it is not really my duty to source for funds before I can get fights. My duty is to train and be sure that I am in great shape to take on any opponent at any time. But that does not mean I don’t realise the fact that it is very hard to get promoters to sponsor fights especially in Nigeria.
The few promoters that we have in Nigeria are doing their best but we still need more people to join them for professional boxing to develop in Nigeria. But what I am doing at the moment is to pray and continue to hope that sponsors will come out and support my next fight.
What are you doing at the moment?
As I said earlier, I am training very hard because I don’t want to be caught unawares when a fight comes my way. I will be going back to the US to continue with my training. There are standard training facilities available for boxers in the US unlike here in Nigeria, where standard facilities are few. That is why I will be returning there to continue with my training to be in good shape.
What steps are the Nigeria Boxing Board of Control, NBB of C taking to assist you?
The NBB of C has been of tremendous help to me, though it has limited resources at its disposal. The board has the intent to help but the truth is that a fight cannot hold if funds are not available. This is where the government can lend a hand since we cannot get sponsors to promote the fight. I need sponsors to help me realise this lofty dream of mine.
What is your take on female boxing in Nigeria?
Female boxing in Nigeria is growing but I know there are steps that can be taken to increase the pace it is growing.
What is your view about the suggestion that women boxers should wear skirts during bouts at the London Olympics?
I don’t think it is possible to force female boxers to wear skirts at the Olympics. It won’t be convenient for them to fight in skirts. It is a suggestion and I think people are entitled to their opinions. The question the concerned parties should answer is whether women will find it comfortable fighting in skirts.
What is your advice to upcoming female boxers in the country?
My advice to them is to work hard. There is no shortcut to success for any female boxer that wants to accomplish her goal. They also need to be consistent and be attentive to their trainers. Boxers tend to do themselves a lot of good when they carry out the instructions of their coaches to the latter. Those instructions may be difficult initially, but the end result will make them happy. Aside from these, they need to be patient and believe in themselves.