How Olanrewaju Durodola embraced boxing was not only interesting but dramatic. Before becoming a boxer, he was comfortable with life as a mwotor park tout, collecting money from commercial bus drivers for a union in Lagos. He was effectively using his huge body frame to bully bus drivers and conductors. One fateful day, he encountered a stubborn conductor who was not ready to play ball. A fight ensued and before Durodola realised it, the conductor had floored him and went away without paying a dime. Durodola later got to know that the guy in question was a boxer. That was what prompted the current World Boxing Council (Silver Cruiserweight) champion to take to boxing. Kunle Adewale caught up with him during one of his training sessions at the Lagos Boxing Hall of Fame’s gymnasium
Standing at six feet, nine inches, Olanrewaju Durodola in his short time as a professional boxer had already caused one of the greatest upsets in the history of the sport after beating Russian knockout terror, Dmitry Kudryashov in the second round to the surprise of the boxing world.
Russians were so devastated after the fight that they accused Durodola of spicing his system with illegal drugs before the fight but he was later given a clean bill of health after an investigation carried out by WBC officials.
“His (Kudryashov) camp was very shocked and embarrassed after I knocked him out in round two and they tried everything to ensure that I did not return to Nigeria with the belt. That was why they came up with the claim that I had enhanced my system with drug, with the hope that I will be barred and he would still hold on to the belt. But after investigation by the WBC, I was cleared. I don’t use drugs; I use the strength God gave me. That’s why I am called God’s Power. I have to admit that I never knew it would be that quick, but I was ready for him. I had studied him. He is a big puncher but so I am,” Durodola said.
His victory against Kudryashov in Kazan, Russia to win the vacant WBC Silver Cruiserweight title did not go unnoticed as he was in January honoured by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Buhari rewarded him with N1.5 million for his success in the ring at a reception held in the State House for distinguished sportsmen and women.
“It came to me as a big surprise when I was told by my coach, Adefemi Babafemi, that I would be honoured by the President in Abuja. My joy knew no bounds that day and it is my proudest moment in life so far, and the honour would motivate me in my future fights,”the Nigerian boxer added.
Though he is based in the United States, the Beijing 2008 Olympian trained for his fight against the Russian at the Lagos Hall of Fame boxing gym, which of course cannot be compared with most boxing gyms abroad in terms of equipment and trainers.
“Since I started my boxing career in Nigeria, I’m used to shabby facilities. The Lagos Hall of Fame boxing gym is good. The only thing that is lacking in the gym is speed balls and speed bags. But then, what I need mostly are good sparring partners. Fortunately, some boxers had just returned from the All African Games and I engaged about 10 of them as training partners. With the initial training I had back in America and coupled with the video clips of my opponent that I had watched and studied with my coach, I was in good shape for the fight with the Russian and the outcome was a testimony to it,” he noted.
In spite of being a world champion, he says he is not getting any support from government or the boxing federation, except from the Nigerian Police.
“The only support I’ve been getting is from the Nigerian Police; most especially the Inspector-General of Police who also ensured I was promoted to the rank of an Assistant Superintendent of Police. He has done virtually everything for me. Aside from this, there is no other support coming from anywhere. I was also not expecting the promotion from the Inspector-General. I will always appreciate the IG and the entire police force. Without the police support I would not have achieved what I have today in boxing.
“After my amateur career was over, the police employed me and it was through their boxing platform that I was able to fight Jamal Woods in Bartle Hall, Kansas City, Missouri, USA for my professional debut in 2011,” the police ASP noted.
The Olympian lamented the state of Nigerian boxing just as he condemned the game’s administrators, saying, “The Olympics qualifier is just around the corner and our boxers are still not yet in camp while boxers from other countries have been in camp long before now. Having the talent is not enough. At the end of the day, the country will go to the Olympics and return empty handed not because we don’t have good athletes but because they are not well prepared for the competition.”
Popularly known as God’s Power by admirers because of the natural strength he possesses, Durodola who made his professional debut in 2011 also holds the WBC Continental Americas cruiserweight, World Boxing Council-African Boxing Union (WBC-ABU) cruiserweight title and is currently ranked second by the WBC with a professional record of 22 wins (20 K0s) and two losses.
The 35-year old boxer was discovered by Coach Adefemi Babafemi, who was then the chief coach of Lagos State at a boxing club in Lagos Island.
“I discovered the talent and potential in him and I encouraged him and even devoting extra days with him. From then on, he went to represent Lagos State at the National Sports Festival in Abuja. That was where he got his first recognition after winning gold and he was then invited to the national camp, after which he represented Nigeria at the All Africa Games, Commonwealth Games and the Olympics before turning professional in 2011. And since then, there was no turning back for him,”Babafemi said.
Durodola, who is expecting his first child very soon, said he would encourage his children to take to boxing because he loves the sport so much. “If I had to reincarnate, I would still be a boxer,” he said.