‘Thunder’ set to strike Nigerian boxing

It is easy to kill a dream, most especially for a child.

If parents don’t support you, it could kill dreams, and if the country doesn’t create opportunities as well, dreams die.

However, for some, they keep on chasing their dreams even with all odds against them.

This applied to 17-year-old Israel Makinde, who started boxing at 10. Despite resistance from his parents, he kept on training and boxing in his desire to become the best.

In doing this, the one nicknamed Savannah Thunder told white lies to achieve his goals, but kept working hard: he was the first to get to the gym and last to leave.

Speaking with PUNCH Sports ExtraIsrael said he fell in love with the game at first sight.

“My brother was a weightlifter, so, he took me along on his training during the weekends and holidays, and I saw some boys boxing. I told him I loved the sport and he got me some equipment and as time went on, I fell in love with the sport.”

Born to a pastor father and a mother who is trader, many wouldn’t have imagined that a son of a cleric would take interest in a combat sport or even be permitted to box.

“When my mum first found out I was going to training, she didn’t get angry. But when she visited the gym and saw some boxers fighting, she was scared and wanted to convince me to stop, but my uncle didn’t allow her. With time, she also fell in love with the game,” Makinde said.

“But it took a very long time before my dad knew I was a boxer. When he found out, I had already achieved a lot. My family members, uncles and everyone told him I was already building a reputation in boxing, including the champion in my category. He just prayed for me and wished me the best of luck.”

Israel confessed that he was scared stiff when he first watched established boxers at close range and almost had a change of mind but for his coach.

“I was scared when I saw how senior boxers were fighting, giving themselves cuts. My coach had to make me believe that they were not my opponents; that I’ll be fighting with my mates. As time went on, I got an injury in my mouth, but seeing that I had given my opponent that same injury made me believe it was not a big deal.”

At such a young age, he already knows what he wants and recognizes that he’ll need a lot of work to achieve his goals.

“I want to become the world’s best boxer in all my divisions, in all categories I compete in. I train every day because I know I have no option; that’s my career, that’s what I want to use to become something in the future. Whether I’m hungry or not, I always want to be the first person in the gym and the last person out of the gym and that will make me the best among the best.”

Though the emerging boxer won gold at the 2019 National Youth Games in Ilorin, he defines the highlight of his seven-year boxing career as the day he won gold in the minimum weight division at the 2020 National Sports Festival in Edo State, under the tutelage of coach Tipo.

“It was my happiest moment,” Makinde added.

“There were so many times I thought about quitting because it’s very hard to find a sponsor here. As time went on, I started getting support from my fans, some gave me money, some advised me and some even got me equipment.”

Apart from lack of sponsorships, he also had other challenges during the early days of his fledging career.

“There was a time when I got very sick. I lost a lot of strength, a lot of power. When I recovered, I started working from beginning again. During that time, I was in hell, tried all my possible best for a month before I could recover.”

Makinde’s sights are now set on representing Nigeria in the flyweight category at the global level.

“I can compete at the Olympics. I am very sure I will make the country and my community proud.”

The diminutive Filipino Manny Pacquiao is Makinde’s favorite pugilist and hopes to emulate him to global acclaim.

“Manny Pacquiao is my favorite boxer of all time. I love his style, his speed, his confidence and mostly the way he fights.”

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