UDI ruined my career - Tinago

HARARE - Zimbabwean boxing legend Langton “Schoolboy” Tinago reckons he could have been one of the world's best boxer at his peak had Rhodesia not been banned from international sports because of the Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI).

Tinago, a three-time Commonwealth champion at two different weights, says sanctions on Rhodesia (post-independent Zimbabwe) in the late 1970s after the Ian Smith regime unilaterally declaring independence from Britain in 1965 greatly affected his career.

The legendary Tinago, now aged 65, rose from Gweru to become an acclaimed boxer, winning two lightweight and a super featherweight crown at the Commonwealth. He won the Commonwealth lightweight in 1980- 1981 and 1986-1987 as well as super featherweight title in 1983-1984.

He was also the country’s welterweight title holder between 1976 and 1979 as well as after Independence in 1984. Between 1974 and 1975 as well as 1983 and 1987, Tinago was the country’s lightweight champion.

Tinago competed in a total 107 bouts, winning 83 with 16 of those victories being knockouts. He lost bouts with four knockouts while he also drew three in his entire boxing career.

“When sorting ties with Rhodesia we cut, I was at the peak of my career and I could have easily become a world champion,”Tinago tells the Daily News.

“Up to this day I feel hurt for not leaving up to my potential at the international stage. During that time I had no defeats when Rhodesia was banned and I had done well against opponents from Zambia and West Africa.”

His recognisable accolades came after Independence when he was already on the wrong side of 30. Tinago’s last crown at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester in 1986 came courtesy of a fifth round thumping of Australia's Graeme Brooke. For his exploits, Tinago was named the Zimbabwe Boxing Board of Control Boxer of the Century.

Despite all the fame that came with winning the accolades, Tinago has nothing to show for it.

He says it is not the lack of proceeds from boxing that is eating his heart, but it is the decay in boxing that is troubling Tinago.

The Shurugwi-born former boxer said he was perplexed to learn that a sport that was the second most popular after football at Independence has sunk into oblivion. What is more worrisome to him is that his son, Brilliant, one of the many promising boxers’ career is gathering dust at a time when he is supposed to be at his peak. This he says is a result of lack of sponsorship.

“It pains me most when I see my son Brilliant whom I reckon as more talented than I was, waning away slowly because of lack of bouts,” he says.

“I fear that he can fall into the same predicament as I, his father, who was not able to fight at his peak because of sanctions. Brilliant is not able to fight at his peak because of lack of sponsorship but he is not the only one. They are so many talented youngsters of his age out there who are facing the same predicament. I just pray that we will have sponsorship to revive boxing in the country so that we get to see these youngsters live their dreams.”

Tinago, who never lost a fight to a local opponent, is now into helping youth in Gweru's Mutapa and Ascot suburbs with boxing skills.

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