After making a name for himself as one of Nigeria's finest, reknowned pugilist and current assistant coach of the national boxing team, Jerry Okorodudu, is helping to unearth talents who are expected to make Nigeria proud at the 11th All Africa Games in Brazzaville, Congo. The 1984 Los Angeles Olympic, boxer took time out during the 1st Kenneth Minimah National Boxing Championship, for an exclusive chat with Completesportsnigeria.com's JAMES AGBEREBI, recounting his feats in the ring, regrets as a boxer and also Nigeria's chances in Congo.
You followed the National Open Boxing Championship that ended some days back, how would you appraise it?
From what I have seen, there is enough improvement. It has been long we had this kind of tournament: the Kenneth Minimah Boxing Championship. So I would say it was wonderful.
With your experience as a former Nigerian boxer, how would you rate the boxers?
From what I saw in the trials, especially in the quarter-finals, some of the boxers that represented Nigeria at the Commonwealth Games were surprisingly knocked out. That goes to show that new talents are coming up. And once you are beaten,
then don't expect to come to camp because it is an indication that such a boxer's time has expired. New ones have taken over. So, I was so happy with what I saw with this emerging boxers, and I have always said that if a boxer has spent six to seven years in the national team, then he should be thinking of giving way for the up and coming ones. So I was very happy with the outcome.
What is your advice to these emerging talents who did well at the trials, in order for them to become great boxers in future?
I always tell up and coming boxers that you don't wait for your coach to and tell you what to do, you have to train yourself. You don't have to wait for your coach to always shout at you to do this and that, to go to the gym. One has to train himself. Every boxer's wish is to become a champion, and the only way to achieve that is to train yourself. Think like a champion, and one day, your dream will come to pass.
While in camp, what do you think the NBF should do to bring out the best out of the boxers?
Now that the trials is over, while in camp, there should be subsequent trials for them in order to keep them in shape. And also, there should be few invitational tournaments that they should attend to assess the good ones that will be selected for the Games.
And what do you think are their chances at the Games based on what you've seen at the trials?
A lot of countries will be at the All Africa Games, and we only have 10 gold medals at stake for all the weight categories. I can't say we will win five gold medals because most of the officials will be from North Africa. They know how to manipulate things. However, with what I have seen, I think we will come with two gold, two silver and three bronze.
Now let's talk about your boxing career, What would you say was your greatest achievement?
I had a lot of achievements during my boxing career. I won medals at the National Sports Festival, won a bronce medal at the 1982 Commonwealth Games, won African titles also. But inspite of all these, I would say my greatest achievement as a boxer was representing Nigeria at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. I made it to the quarter-finals where I became number five in the world.
Can you recollect some of your outstanding fights as an amateur boxer?
I had a lot of great fights as an amateur boxer which I ended up winning. But one remarkable thing during my time as an amateur boxer was that I never lost a fight against any Nigeria boxer. No Nigerian boxer ever beat me in that category, except in the professional when I lost to Joe Lasisi. Other than that, I never lost a fight to any boxer in this country.
What about your professional career? Which fight is most memorable?
That fight that always come to mind was the one against Pat Coulibaly of Cote d'Ivoire. I remember when we took on each other, we stood in the middle of the ring and was just throwing punches. But in the round eight, he gave up, insisted he didn't want to fight anymore. And I remember my manager then, Dotun Olaribigbe, who told me that he had never seen vicious body shots like that, because the two of us punched ourselves seriously. I think that was one great fight I will never forget.
And do you have any regrets as a boxer?
I regret boxing for Nigeria because after all I have done for Nigeria as a boxer, I am not recognized. However, I thank God I am alive. Since I came back from the United States almost 18 years ago, I have been with the national team and have trained boxers, yet nothing to show for my effort. They don't pay me, only just of recent they decided to engage me and gave me some money. That was not supposed to be so, I should have something better. I remember during the Commonwealth Games, a friend who was working for the Commonwealth organization in Glasgow found out that I was an Olympian, he came to me and offered to buy me shoes and clothes to take home.
Finally, your advice to the up and coming boxers who wish to be successful?
My word for up and coming boxers is they should be themselves. They should also stay out of trouble.
Thank you very much for your time.
It's a pleasure.