They came in large numbers; young, talented and of course, with hope in their eyes. It could not have been otherwise, given the fast rise of Rilwan â€œBaby Faceâ€ Babatunde, discovered at GOtv Boxing NextGen Search 1, to the status of the next big thing on the circuit.
For two days, the premises of Walan Hotel (formerly Dâ€™Rovans) in Ibadan brimmed with young boxers, as GOtv Boxing NextGen 3 held at a venue famous for boxing. The programme, an audition for boxers aged between 18 and 25 and seeking to join the professional ranks, attracted boxers from as far as Jos, Abuja and the South-East geo-political zone.
In attendance were members of the Nigerian boxingâ€™s coaching royalty. They included Joe Mensah, Obisia Nwakpa and Jerry Okorodudu, who were on the judgesâ€™ panel. Also present was Dr. Rafiu Ladipo, President, Nigerian Boxing Board of Control (NBB of C), Mr. Remi Aboderin, General Secretary, NBB of C; and Mr. Lateef Opaleye, Chairman, Oyo State Boxing Association. Speaking at the opening, Mr. Jenkins Alumona, CEO, Flykite Promotions, the organisers, said the initiative is a continuation of the revival of Nigerian boxing being undertaken by GOtv. He noted that the first two editions of the programme held in Lagos, but was moved to Ibadan because the city was where GOtv launched in 2007 and also has a long association with boxing.
Alumona advised participating boxers to see the programme as an opportunity to go further in their trade, adding that Mr. Adewunmi Ogunsanya, Chairman, MultiChoice Nigeria and GOtv Boxing, had undertaken to pay for the professional licences and medical tests for all those selected.
The sparring sessions, said the judgesâ€™ panel headed by Coach Joe Mensah, were impressive. The two days devoted to sparring sessions at the Walan Hotel Gym, managed by the Oyo State Boxing Association, saw over 200 boxers attempt to catch the eyes of selectors. On the closing day, the panel had drawn up a list of those adjudged the best in readiness for announcement at a ceremony held at July 21 Hall, The Law Hub, Ring Road, Ibadan.
Speaking at the ceremony, Alumona advised those that did not make the cut not to be discouraged. He counselled that failure to make the court should spur them to be better next time. Dr. Ladipo, President, NBB of C, cautioned the young boxers to avoid womanising and use of harmful substances if they want to get to the top of their game.
A total of 23 boxers were selected, with three adjudged as being the most promising. Abuja-based Razak Ramon emerged as the most valuable boxer. He was followed by Akure-based Daniel Emeka and Lagos-based Sulaimon Adeosun. Each of the three boxers was given a GOtv decoder. Others selected also got prizes.
A cash support of N100, 000, courtesy of the Chairman, GOtv Boxing, was announced for the Oyo State Boxing Association, while that of N50, 000 was announced for the Boxing Coaches Association in the state.