It is not a death wish, nor is it a Public Relations stunt. Sixty five year old, self-styled ‘welterweight’ boxer Joe Murangi is dead set on returning to the ring – with a dream of becoming a world champion.
It has been 25 years since Murangi’s last fight, which was against Booster Tjeriko at the Katutura Community Hall, in 1979. This week, Murangi who is training on a daily basis at the same venue, told The Villager that he is ready to square up against the likes of Tyson Uushona, Peter Malakia or even Manny Pacquiao – if only the Namibia Boxing Control Board (NBCB) will award him with a professional boxing licence.
The NBCB has refused to grant him with a boxing licence since 1997.
“I had been applying for the professional boxing licence since 1997 but to no avail and now it is worse because they will use my age as a scapegoat. If I had gotten the licence those years by now I could had been far,” Murangi said.
He accused the boxing board of discriminating against him based on his age, as he seeks to follow into the footsteps of American boxer, Bernhard Hopkins age 49 who is the World Boxing Association (WBA) and International Boxing Federation (IBF) and International Boxing Association (IBA) light-heavyweight world champion.
“Hopkins is 15 years younger than me. I am aiming at becoming a world champion and that is still my dream if I can only get that licence although I will need to go through a lot of process. I know it is a day dream to some but I will never give up and I would like to tell people that age is just a number,” Murangi said.
Namibia Boxing Federation (NBF) Secretary-General, Joe Kaperu said it is against the policy of the world boxing board to allow a boxer over the age of 36 and 64 for that matter because it is tantamount to suicide for him to apply for a licence unless the boxer has been active in the ring for years.
“I would advise him to become a coach or a promoter because, this thing of him wanting to fight is the same as him contemplating suicide,” Kaperu said while acknowledging that Murangi was “one of the best boxers in the country.”
Born in Otjihavera in the Brakwater district in the Khomas region, Murangi is a former learner at Dobra Secondary School, where he fell in love with boxing in 1962 – having been inspired by the late former South West Africa (Namibia) lightweight great Israel ‘Bomber’ Brown.
Murangi added, “Brown was the greatest boxer of all time for me in this country although some might have other ideas.”
He only took the sport seriously in 1964 after deciding to quit rugby because of his small frame.
“I played rugby but I decided to quit the sport because I was a target of the big guys when on the field due to my small body. I didn’t enjoy soccer that’s why I opted for boxing,” said Murangi.
The first ever set of boxing gloves he wore belonged to one Paul Willem, who was a construction worker at the time. He then got into the ring with Mark Haraseb – a cousin to the former Brave Warriors and Chief Santos coach, Max Johnson.
He later took on the likes of Edward Katjiuongua, whom he defeated in the welterweight division and Gottlieb Sirara in the bantamweight. His biggest achievement, he said, is winning the heavyweight title against Mathews Shalula in 1972.
Murangi told The Villager Sport that he is invited to take part in the Old Crocks Boxing Championships in Ondangwa next month.
“I am not really in favour of fighting in the old crocks because I want to fight in a real fight. I will think about it but if I decide to fight, I will have to prove a point to everyone that I can still fight,” he said.
Murangi reckons World Boxing Organisation (WBO) Africa welterweight champion Betuel ‘Tyson’ Uushona, former WBA champion Paulus ‘The Hitman’ Moses and WBO Africa Bantamweight champion Immanuel ‘Prince’ Naidjala and Walter ‘The Executioner’ Kuutondokwa are the best boxers at the moment.
“I can rate those four as the Joseph ‘Joe ‘Archers’ Shikongo, the Murangi’s and the George Mukwahima of our generation because they are similar to us during our boxing eras,” said Murangi.
In response to claims that his desire to step in the ring is motivated by a death wish, Murangi said; “I am not worried about getting hurt in the ring because it is the same when it comes to a war. One should expect anything like life or death and I am prepared to take the risk. I am physically and mentally fit to fight.”