Ex-boxing champ steering army sports

Ex-boxing champ steering army sports
Ex-boxing champ steering army sports

Africa-Press – Namibia. FORMER Commonwealth welterweight champion Paulus ‘Ali’ Nuumbembe is considered as one of the best pound for pound boxers to come out of Namibia.

Nuumbembe was first introduced to boxing while still a pupil at Oshakati Primary School, by Joseph Bernard of Kilimanjaro Boxing Club. However, it was only during his time at Iipumbu Secondary School that he started boxing seriously.

He fought his first fight in the light welterweight division in 1992, and as a fan of the late Muhammad Ali, widely considered the greatest boxer of all time, he used his footwork to great effect, like his idol, earning himself the nickname ‘Ali’.

Growing up at Omutemo village, in the Ohangwena region, Nuumbembe took part in other sports like basketball, football and karate, and also ran the 200m and 400m “just for fun”, until boxing finally took centre stage. He won his first regional title in 1994, with his maiden national title coming in 1995.

The Oshakati-born pugilist became the darling of the local boxing world after he annexed the Commonwealth welterweight title – thanks to a points victory over Scottish favourite Kevin Anderson in 2007, to become Namibia’s first Commonwealth champion.

He describes this moment at the biggest of his career. The now retired powerful puncher, who is renowned for his superb footwork, punched his way into the hearts of fanatical British boxing fans.

In 2002 he opted to relocate to Manchester on unpaid leave, where he won a bronze medal as an amateur, and soon went on to establish himself as a firm crowd favourite.

“I really enjoyed my stay in England but I had to come back because things outside the boxing ring started to hamper my progress. I lost my Commonwealth title because of a technicality – due to a cut above my right eye.

“In actuality, it was a boardroom decision because my opponent Craig Watson and I had the same promoter. It was obvious that being a local lad, they preferred him to keep the title, and they were dragging to sanction a rematch.”

Another motivating factor to return home was the growth of the sport in Namibia and he was rewarded for his decision when he clinched the World Boxing Association Pan African welterweight and Namibian national titles.

Nicknamed ‘The Silent Assassin’, Nuumbembe also represented Namibia at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia, where he was Namibia’s flag bearer.

“It is every athlete’s dream to represent his country at the Olympics and test his quality against the best boxers in the world. Just the mere fact that you qualified, gives you a special feeling. I was the only boxer from Namibia to have qualified.

“It was not easy. I had to share camping and training with four South African boxers. I lost in the first round, on points to an opponent from Kazakhstan but I can proudly tell my children today that their dad is an Olympian,” he enthuses.

Over the span of his boxing career he entered the professional ring 29 times and built up an impressive winning streak of 23 fights (including seven knockouts) and one draw. He tasted defeat five times, four of which were by knockout and boasts one solitary draw.

He considers his national welterweight title defeat to Tyson Uushona as one of the best fights in his professional career, and based his style on hand speed, as he always traded a lot of punches in fights.

On the home front, he’s been married to Nangula Nuumbembe for 14 years, and the couple share three beautiful children, all of whom have inherited their father’s sporty genes. He’s currently employed by the NDF as a lieutenant and staff officer in the sports division, and is also a part-time communal farmer in the Okongo area of the Ohangwena region.

“I deal with all the sports codes under the mantle of the Namibian army. It’s a very challenging job because of limitations on gatherings, which were implemented during the dawn of the Covid-19 pandemic. I am tasked to arrange sports events and to take care of the logistics when the army teams travel.”

He just completed a year’s training at the Military School at Okahandja, and dreams of reviving all sports disciplines in the army to the level that the NDF can start participating in the World Military Games again.

A board member of Salute Boxing Academy, he also aspires to help develop the academy into the flagship of Namibian boxing and produce more national and world titles for the country.

He describes Harry ‘The Terminator’ Simon as the person who has had the most influence on his sporting career. Nuumbembe watched the 1998 fight live at the Carousel Casino in South Africa, and was particularly impressed by the way Simon outboxed American Winky Wright and won the WBO junior middleweight crown.

He doesn’t miss the gruelling training regimen he used to follow during his active boxing days, he says because he never stopped training and his involvement with Salute Boxing Academy ensures that he still gets his boxing fix.

He attributes his past glory inside the boxing ring to his love of the sport and his strong will to succeed. “I am still training as if I am preparing for a boxing fight every time I hit the gym. I enjoying watching the young men slug it out in the ring from the sideline,” he says.

“And for relaxation, I take a long walk, listen to music or just read a good book.”

“I am living my dream right now. I have a good job and a beautiful family. What more can a man dream about than being married to the love of your life and having children?” His advice to young boxers is that nothing in this world can be achieved without hard work.

“There is no shortcut to success. If you want to achieve something in life you have to work very hard for it. Hence, the watchword here is commitment, hard work and live a clean life.”

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