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Published On: Fri, Jun 4th, 2021

Orogun Born Boxer, Efetobor Apochi Itches Closer To Become World Boxing Champion


LAGOS JUNE 4TH (URHOBOTODAY)-By the end of this year, Nigeria could have a new world boxing champion in the form of Efetobor Apochi. The 33-year -old was recently listed as a mandatory challenger for the World Boxing Association (WBA) cruiserweight title after a series of devastating knockouts to place himself firmly on the divisions’ top hierarchy, reports OLUWAMAYOMIKUN OREKOYA.
According to WBA Ranking for April 2021, Apochi is ranked top above former two-time cruiserweight world champion, Yuniel Dorticos of Cuba, who held the WBA title from 2017 to 2018 and the IBF title from 2019 to September 2020.
International Boxing Organization (IBO) World cruiserweight title holder, Kevin Lerena of South Africa is ranked third, while Yury Kashinsky of Russia and Tommy Mccarthy of Great Britain are ranked fourth and fifth respectively.
Originally from Orogun in Delta State but now residing in Houston, Texas, Apochi can be counted as one of the few boxers that have successfully transitioned from the amateur ranks to being a top ranked professional abroad in recent times.
He represented Nigeria in the All African Game, Mozambique in 2011 and Congo in 2015 where he won the silver medal in both tournaments. He was also at the 2013 World Boxing Championship hosted by Kazakhstan where he bowed in the quarterfinals to bronze medallist Teymur Mammadov. Incidentally the championship in Kazakhstan was Nigeria’s last participation at the world championships.
But Apochi crowning glory for Nigeria was when he won a bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games held in Glasgow, Scotland in 2014.
He was also the first Nigerian to compete in the World Series of Boxing, featuring for the Mexico Guerreros in 2016. The World Series of Boxing is a professional international boxing competition that allows professional boxers maintain their Olympic eligibility and it is organized by AIBA.
Despite his glowing contributions to Nigerian Boxing Apochi has been on the receiving end of the boxing federations ‘ineptitude towards qualifying for major tournaments.
Prior to the 2016 Olympic Games, Apochi and UK-based Sodiq Umar had to self-fund their trip to the final Olympic qualifiers in Baku Azerbaijan and although he crashed out to Roy Korving from the Netherlands on a split decision, the microbiology graduate does not regret the decision to go for the tournament without financial help from the federation or sports ministry.
“The experience of sponsoring myself to an international championship was everything for me. I got more confidence in myself and got to know more about the sport so it was satisfying to do all that on my own.”
The former national team captain feels a lack of an effective Nigeria Boxing Federation has damaged the competitiveness of the sport and contributed to the decline of boxing in the country.
“There is hardly a federation in Nigeria. There was no proper organised national event for a while apart from the National Sports Festival. So there are no competitions. If we have more competition, every boxer will train regularly.”
“The boxing federation needs to be committed to their task and not just playing the politics game for their own benefit.”
“I really don’t want to talk about the reason they didn’t go for the qualifier but know that it would affect the psyche of the upcoming boxers.”
“I also believe high performance athletes should be encouraged and placed on sports scholarships as it will leave a sense of self-worth and the confidence that the government through the sporting authorities care about their welfare and future well-being”.
After the 2016 Olympic Games, Apochi and heavyweight Efe Ajagba signed with promoter Richard Schaefer’s Ringstar Sports in 2017 and made his pro debut with a resounding second round knockout victory over Daniel Mejia Hernandez on 30, July 2017.
“It is a big pleasure to become a part of Ringstar Sports,” Apochi said at the time. “I have never wished for anything more. I am so grateful for this opportunity and promise to give the fans a show.”
Legendary boxing manager and Hall of Famer Shelley Finkel became Apochi’s manager and he was trained by Ronnie Shields, one of boxing’s most renowned trainers.
His second pro fight saw him shock Leo Pla via another first round knockout and took just two rounds to finish off Darrius Flowers in his first fight in 2018.
Further knock outs against Caston Young (third round), Aaron Chavers and Eric Abraham (both first round) in 2018 gradually established him as a new force to reckon with in the Cruiserweight division.
2019 saw further victories over Raymond Ochieng (second round) and Larry Pryor (fourth round) and his only fight in 2020 saw him beat the previously undefeated Joe Jones in the third round.
The wins keep piling up for Apochi. His latest victim came by way of a third-round knockout of Deon Nicholson last month and he has now gone 11 fights with none going the distance.
The boxer, currently mandatory challenger to France’s Arsen Goulaimirian (26-0, 18KOs), who holds the WBA Super Cruiserweight title is rapidly cushioning himself for a shot for the cruiserweight crown and has his eyes fixed on a world title. “I am the king of the cruiserweight division yet to be crowned, but very soon I will be the World Champion.”
“I am a born fighter and a true warrior, naturally talented. I am all about attraction, thoughts, thinking, and imagination. I think therefore I am the secret behind my success. All I did was to take advantage of the legendary coach and manager Ronnie Shields and I haven’t looked back since. People who know the game stay on top by focus, smart work, dedication and consistency with training and a healthy lifestyle.”
“I think that I am where I am supposed to be. I have put in a lot of sacrifice and a lot of time and I feel that I am now close to winning a title.”
“I will keep building my record until I can get at least 15 fights then I am in the world rankings to call anybody out for a title shot”
“I spoke to my manager and promoter Shelley Finkel, so I should be back in the ring very soon”
Apochi said he got interested in boxing when his late father used to take him and his brothers to watch boxing fights back home in Delta state in the early 90s.
“My father used to take me to watch boxing matches when I was a boy. Growing up I bullied my classmates in school and was always engaging in one squabble or the other in my neighborhood. He sat me down one day and advised me to channel my overexcited energies into something positive. So I started going to the boxing gym and training on my own. In time I realized I liked the sport and became determined to be a success as a boxer.
While his father introduced him to the sport, Apochi cites Mike Tyson as his first role model when he took the gloves for the first time. “The first role model I had in boxing was the former undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, the irreplaceable Mike Tyson. His fighting style inspired me to become a better boxer, but in the latter years, I started watching the way Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao fight and have incorporated their styles into my game.
Apochi, while enjoying fighting across the United States, hinted that he would like to fight in Nigeria but only if the price is right.
There have been a growing number of promotions springing up to stage fights recently but there is still a drought of fights in the heavyweight or cruiserweight division
“I would like to fight in Nigeria if the money is right.
“The professional scene in Nigeria has grown and I would love to be part of it but I have to be well taken care of,” Apochi said.

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