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Jerry Okorodudu: I won’t lie – Lasisi used ‘black magic’ on me

Jerry Okorodudu: I won’t lie – Lasisi used ‘black magic’ on me
July 20
10:30 2014

Former African boxing champion, Jeremiah Okorodudu, tells TheCable about memories of the fight with Joe Lasisi he lost allegedly due to his opponent’s use of supernatural powers, how the annulled June 12 election overturned his fortunes, and lots more.

Since retiring what has been your involvement in the sport?

I have a boxing academy in Ojo for youths between the ages of 10 and 15. Every year, I do a boxing championship on the last Saturday of the year. It has been running for three years. Our main sponsors are the telecommunications companies.

Who are the boxers you have trained?

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I have boxers in the national boxing team while some are abroad. Nestor Pollon was the Africa and Commonwealth champion in 2003. There is also Emmanuel Izonritie and a host of others. I worked with Samuel Peters for three years before he went to the US to fight for the world title. Presently, I am the national boxing coach of Nigeria.

Are you happy with the state of boxing in the country?

Well, no. We had people who didn’t care about the sport in charge, but as God will have it, ever since new director-general of the National Sports Commission, Gbenga Elegbeleye, was brought in, boxers have been participating at different competitions, which was not so before. We just came back from the world championship last November. We have been to the Olympic youth championship. At present, we are in camp preparing for the Commonwealth Games. Things have really changed for the better.

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Do you think the media played a role in the decline of boxing?

No. They write things that promote boxing and other sports. They are really helping us, and it is because of what they are saying that the present DG got involved in the first place. The man has been trying.

What’s your relationship with other retired boxers?

I have a cordial relationship with them. We meet twice in a month at the National Stadium in Surulere — a committee of veterans in the sport. We mostly talk about how to move boxing forward in the country; how to package programmes for the young ones in the sport; how we can support the boxing federation in terms of promotion and sponsorship. We started meeting this year.

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Who was your most difficult opponent?

I will say it is Joe Lasisi. I broke my hand in the fight and was unable to continue the bout. The fight was a controversial one. Things didn’t go well for me that day. At a point, I was seeing him on the ring.

I read somewhere that you said he used AfricaMagic on you. How true is that?

It is true. I won’t lie; it is true. It was only last month I found out the meaning of a parrot in Yoruba language – aiye ko oto (that is, ‘the world doesn’t like the truth’). Why should I lie? I fought Lasisi who then was into fetish practices. They called me Glamour Boy of Nigeria Boxing and I just wanted to fight Lasisi, beat him and go for a show later that night with Oscar Junior who was a DJ at a nightclub in Surulere where we normally went on Saturdays.

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Have you ever raised the issue with Lasisi?

He tells me ‘Okorodudu, stop all those things you are saying about me’ and we laugh over it.

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Did he ever admit using AfricaMagic in the fight?

He did not, but Hunter Clay did. Clay said I was too popular and it wasn’t that they wanted to kill me but to reduce my popularity. Clay told me at Carter Best Restaurant, now Ojez Restaurant  at the National Stadium, that he took Lasisi somewhere in Isale Eko. The herbalist put a bowl of water in front of them, called my name and struck the bowl. Clay begged me to forgive him and I told him ‘If God can forgive us, who am I not to? My friend go and buy me drinks.’ He did and that settled the matter. I know they cannot take my popularity away. And that reminds me of the day my friend, King Sunny Ade, paid me a visit. While entertaining him, we discussed about my music career. I have an album I wanted his office to help me to market. As I stood up to go and bring a glass cup for him he said: ‘Champion, as you stood up, I saw that they covered you with a black cloth. There is a star on your forehead and the star is shining.’ He advised me to go for prayers.

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When was this?

I was in my twenties; quite young then.

Were you boxing professionally then?

I was boxing then.

You didn’t really take him seriously?

I did not. I was young and carefree. I was 24 or 25 then.

Had you fought Lasisi when Sunny Ade told you that?

I had fought Lasisi. Later, I went to the US and returned. One day, I was in a church in Ughelli in Delta state and the pastor was praying for people. He called me out and said: ‘My brother, they are cladding you in black cloth and it is all over your body. As you were praying and jumping up, the cloth fell down.’ He told me to step out of where I was, that the cloth was on the ground; and I did. Then I remembered what King Sunny Ade told me many many years before – over 10 years before that time. I said na wah o!

Okorodudu 2Can you remember another memorable fight?

That will be my quarterfinal fight with So Chun Park of Korea at the 1984 Olympics. The winner would have met American Virgil Hill and the Americans didn’t want that because I had beaten Hill in a pre-Olympic tournament in Karlsruhe in the then West Germany. They gave the fight to Park on a split decision, 3-2. I was sure I had beaten him in all the rounds. Hill beat Park and eventually won the gold medal. The boy got a bronze.

Which other boxer gave you a tough time on the ring?

None really; remember the press called me the Nigerian Mohammed Ali, so I tried to maintain that name.

What’s your view on Bash Ali and his dream of becoming the oldest boxing champion?

The only person who knows Bash Ali very well is Bash Ali. If he thinks he can do it, fine. George Foreman came out of retirement at a ripe old age and won the world title.

Are Nigerian boxer giving him all the support he needs?

For me, I’m supporting him. If not for Bash Ali, boxing would have died in this country. Nobody was talking about boxing. Ali is making boxing relevant and I like what he’s doing.

Aside being the national coach and running your academy, what other things do you do?

I manufacture boxing materials such as bag, ring, glove, trainer’s pack and other things associated with the sport. I’m also into entertainment – music, master of ceremonies, comedy – anything that has to do with entertainment.

You are into music?

Yes. I released an album titled Jerry without Gloves. It got me nominated for the Best New Artiste of the Year at the FAME Music Award in 1993. Daddy Showkey beat me to the award. I remember my experience when I wanted to launch the album. MKO Abiola and other prominent Nigerians assisted me. I booked a hall at the National Theatre; paid for drinks and everything was set for the event.  A day to the event, Ibrahim Babangida annulled June 12 election. Nobody came for the launch the next day. IBB also closed The Punch newspaper, where I had an office. I couldn’t enter my office because soldiers came to lock up the place. I had in that office, my albums and those of other musicians whose works I was helping to promote. I had to pay them off. I was running a Chinese restaurant with my American wife and whatever we made in a day was used to offset my debt. Things were very tough and rough. But today, I thank God. When he assumed office,the present DG  saw that my condition was not good. He said he could not allow ex-internationals, whether in football or boxing, to suffer. He gave me the national coaching job. Today, I’m happy. If I say I’m not happy, then I’m lying.

Did you know you will become a boxer?

I told myself I wanted to be like Mohammed Ali. Back then in my primary school, I told people, ‘Don’t fight me o, I’m a boxer.’

Didn’t anyone discourage you?

My mother encouraged me, but my father didn’t. He wanted me to be a doctor or a lawyer, but I initially told him I wanted to study music and be a musician. His reply was, Sso that you can be smoking like Fela?’ That’s just what he told me. He said if I became a lawyer or doctor, people would still know me. I said I wanted to be known. Then I told him if he didn’t want me to go to school to read music, he should allow me become a boxer. He said: ‘So that you will die like George Foreman?’

But when I was returning from the Olympics, my father was at the airport. He hugged me and was crying. He said he couldn’t walk the street of Warri without people stopping to greet him because of my exploits at the Olympics. He was happy and so proud of me. When I released my album, he was there and said I still hadn’t forgotten my music ambitions. He prayed and blessed me.

Any regrets going into boxing?

I regret boxing for Nigeria. After the Commonwealth Games, Ghana asked me to come and box for them. I know where all my mates — the Ghanaian boxers who also went for the Commonwealth Games — are today. Nigeria uses you and does not recognise you. But I thank God that Goodluck Jonathan brought this new DG and the minister. They are turning sport around.

 

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