Zim boxing at crossroads

HARARE - Barely three months after pouring out his heart on being neglected in an interview with a local weekly, former Commonwealth Boxing champion and Zimbabwe boxing legend Langton “Schoolboy” Tinago has died without getting the recognition he had yearned for.

Tinago passed away in the early hours of yesterday morning at Gweru General Hospital after a short illness where he had been admitted since Sunday evening.

He is survived by his wife and seven children. Mourners are gathered at his home at No 42 Nkenyani Road, Mambo in Gweru.

His younger brother and family spokesperson Wellington Pombi said the family is saddened by the loss.

“It’s a great loss to us as a family. We haven’t made any arrangements, we have just notified the boxing authorities, resident minister and the ministry of sports. We will notify of any details once we have sat down and finalised with all the funeral and burial arrangements,” Pombi told the Daily News yesterday.

Tinago is a three-time Commonwealth champion. A super feather, light weight and light welterweight boxer who traded leather in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. Efforts to churn out boxers who could sting even harder than he did were frustrated as a result of the harsh economic environment in the country leading to the closure of his academy; Ascot Boxing Club.

Despite being a celebrated boxer who represented the country with both distinction and impunity he had reservations on the lack of recognition, something that had long bothered him until he got an avenue to express it three months back.

“Right now I feel neglected, wondering where all those people who used to fill up Rufaro Stadium just to watch me fight are when I am struggling like this. The only income I get is my pension from the Gweru City Council and a ‘barbershop’ I rent out,” Tinago said.

“I won three titles at the Commonwealth that is two lightweight titles and a super-featherweight title. I was unstoppable and I am by far Zimbabwe’s greatest sportsperson. But why don’t I get recognition for everything I did for this country? If I were from Europe or a white person I could still be getting a lot of money and honour. Yet in this country, people are waiting for me to die so that they can come and deliver glowing speeches standing next to my coffin.”

“I know Zimbabweans are fond of passing glowing eulogies when someone dies yet they would have never bothered to check on him or her during the days when that person needed them the most.”

But as tributes continue to pour in, super middleweight and light heavyweight boxer Edmos Takawira, Tinago’s bossom buddy said he had lost a mentor.

“I have lost a mentor; he has been my coach since amateur days. He saw me becoming an international pro. He was a brother and friend to me,” Takawira said.

South Africa-based Zimbabwean boxer Chamunorwa “Sting” Gonorenda said he is heartbroken.

“I’m heartbroken. I don’t know what to say. I actually cried because he was my father and a father to everybody. He was my mentor, he taught me how to box, taught me how to sting. He taught me the stance, how to stand and everything boxing. This is very hard for me to take but there’s nothing that I can do - everything happens in God’s own time but he has left a very huge gap. He was a very big inspiration in our lives as boxers because we all wanted to be like him,” Gonorenda said.

Tapiwa Tembo who won his Africa versus UK bout during the Kwese Friday Night boxing extravaganza in Harare last week also shared his tribute.

“It’s really sad, still can’t believe the news as you know this is the man that I have been looking up to since I started boxing. Always used to laugh with him telling him that my dream was to beat his record and in January he came down to Harare to watch me fight for the title,” Tembo said.

Tinago will be remembered as one of the finest boxers to emerge from Zimbabwe.

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