Ode to a champion: Hebert Nkabiti tribute

BG REPORTER
Tuesday, 09 May 2017
CHAMPION…Nkabiti (L ) and Kamanga CHAMPION…Nkabiti (L ) and Kamanga

Best known for winning the Junior Welterweight Silver Medal at the 2007 All-Africa Games as an amateur, Herbert Nkabiti fought the last fight on Friday last week, in which he sustained head injuries.
Following the doomed junior welterweight professional boxing match, Nkabiti died the following day at a hospital in Johannesburg: Below BG Sport shares tributes from various local boxing personalities in Botswana.
Nkabiti was undefeated in his first ten professional bouts.   

DR THATO PATLAKWE (President of the Botswana Boxing Association):Nkabiti to me is a legend that loved the Sport of boxing. He breathed and lived Boxing - this is evident by his Boxing gym. His ambitions were to turn Ghetto (Francistown) into Boxing hub. Nkabiti was very committed to taking less fortunate children off the street.
I met him late last year in Francistown and he said to me, " Dr I have many Boxing projects I want to do in the northern part of Botswana and I want your support. I want to do some tournaments in the northern regions of school kids and unearth / identify new talent. This northern side of the country has talented kids like Boifang and others." I looked him in to the eyes and said you are right champ and rest assured of our support as BoBA. He was a man of his word - two weeks later following the meeting, he updated me of the progress of the different Boxing projects including the gym he was running. Nkabiti had a long-term vision on how he would like to see the Sport of Boxing grow. In the back of my mind I said he is not just a boxer or CHAMP but also a well vested Boxing Administrator. As Boxing family we have lost a great man, man of his word, a strong character, a true boxing soldier, man who died doing what he loved most. MHSRIPI have never been so sad my brother - as a Dr and President this is something that I wish it would never ever happened to anyone who loves this sport - Boxing is a technical sport you beat the other opponent with better technique and tactic.I feel that more needs to be done by medical personnel, coaches and boxing jury to protect vulnerable boxers - especially when the athletes are receiving unnecessary punishment - you can just stop the fight.
That is the core duty of the ringside medical personnel and jury. This is a sport and prevention of fatal injuries must be a priority.


 
MASTER LUZA (former  national  team  boxer  and coach):Nkabiti was a giant of a man. A lion with a soft heart, very kind to everyone and a true dream chaser always striving for excellence. I remember when I was the only senior boxer back in 2005 preparing for the Commonwealth Boxing Championships in Glasgow, he rose from a nobody to a silver medalist in the 64kg category , where I won a gold in the 51kg. Coincidentally we're both facing Indian boxers in the finals.
This was a time when the so-called golden generation of boxing (Jonah Ramasia, Leslie Sekotswe, Gilbert Khunwane, Dintwa Sloca, Seroba Binda) had retired from amateur boxing. Khumiso was studying in Cuba and I was the only senior boxer. During road works we'd compete like track kings if you know what I mean. He'd appreciate and say in his Ngwaketse accent "you know Master you're such a good athlete and a source of inspiration. I always had to be on top because of his pressure.
He was such a workaholic in training and in the ring. He had lots of power and endurance. Was very brave! He went on to represent Botswana at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, the 2007 All Africa Games in Algeria. The same year he was awarded the Presidential Certificate of Honour by HE F.G. Mogae. He won other awards in the military games.
We met in December 2016 in Francistown where he'd found his new home. We chatted about family (his new born baby) and boxing. Every time we met it was great, as we'd remember the good old times in boxing. He loved Francistown so much that he'd built his own home there. He'd always emphasise that he loved Francistown so much and was pursuing his dreams there doubling up as a fitness trainer and professional boxer.
Mind you he left his fulltime army job that he loved so much to join the professional ranks in boxing. The city of Francistown recognised him for outstanding work done in the city during the country's BOT 50 celebrations. And for this I think as Batswana we should celebrate him, as he died doing what he loves most. He died at work. He's a true servant who was pursuing a God given talent. Ahoooah! A military slogan that Herbert loved to shout during training.


THEBE SETLALEKGOSI: (boxing coach) The boy had 2 faces, outside the ring he was a sweet young man, in the ring he was wild, no fear at all. I have coached him when he won silver at the all Africa games in Algeria and boxing was his life. He wanted to make a living out of it. Hebert was following his heart by quitting the military in favour of pro boxing. Of course, I was against this decision when he told me but had to respect his decision and let him go to the pro ranks. He was a true gentleman.This was in 2007,all he ever wanted as a boxer was represent his country at the Olympics and when it did not happen, he switched to pro boxing, this was during the Beijing Olympics in 2008



BOND NGUBULA (Boxing trainer and promoter):

I called him Hernka, I knew him way back when we were amateurs.  I never fought him but remember that Leslie Sekotswe used to knock him out in the bantam division.A few years later he bounced back as a grown up and stronger boxer.  That was after joining BDF. Besides boxing he was a natural born entrepreneur, he used to sell t-shirts and I would seldom pass by his room at donga BDF camp to check out his latest order.
He made a bold move to quit the BDF to his hand at professional boxing.  A lot of colleagues criticized the move as ill advised but to some of us it was inspiration.  I promote today because of guys like him who quit to follow their dreams.  They paved a way for some of us, a lot of people think I am the pioneer of pro boxing in this country but I am not the guy. Herbert is among the few like Thuso Khubamang and Leslie Sekotswe who indirectly contributed to the growth of bond boxing promotion.
At one point I tried to promote Herbert but that did not work out, I personally felt he was crazy with his demands, he wanted a purse of P40 000 for 6 rounds.  I went on to promote the fight without him but would later come in as a timekeeper.  That clearly showed we could work together despite our differences. Just before my recent fight, Herbert sent a boxer to compete. He had registered Nkabiti Promotions and was planning to go into full time promotion.  Nkabiti also had a boxing club called Hernka fitness in Francistown where he offered boxing fitness classes. He was not able to attend our last fight due to preparations for the fight that later took his life. Nkabiti was a very independent person who was always ready to speak his mind.
One thing I always remember about him is the speech he gave at a press conference following a victory in SA.  The speech took over 30 minutes, as he repeated the same thing over and over again. The BTV camera guy went out to have a cigarette and came back to find Herbert still on the floor. 
For me he holds a record of the longest speech given by any local boxer. May his soul rest in peace.  I will miss him

FRANCE MABILETSA: (Chairman Tsholofelo boxing club).I became aware of Nkabiti from around 2005 when he started making inroads in boxing, fighting his way a few years later into the National team. This led to him winning silver at 2006 All Africa Games and the following year a BNSC Sportsman of the year.
He represents the Francistown BDF boxing club in the 64kg division. He was such an awkward boxer of average technique but with so much aggression in the ring and a lion's heart. It is this character that catapulted his status in boxing. During his time UB-Tsholofelo did not have a boxer in his category, so we never had to deal with his onslaught as other clubs did. A very humble person and dedicated to boxing. If his technique was higher he is one of those that would have qualified for the Olympics. One could liken his aggression to that of Mike Tyson. Without that aggression their boxing suffered. Until his last day he was a gentleman, humble to the core. On behalf of UB-Tsholofelo and the boxing family MHSRIP.


PAUL KAMANGA (professional  boxer  and  former opponent):Sometimes things happen that reminds us of the danger we take in this game. R.I.P my friend good friend worthy opponent. And warrior of note I am blessed to have shared the ring with you. Condolences to family and friends. And also just want to reach out to williers Baloyi who was involved in the fight. Praying for you too my friend. Much love God bless, Herbert Nkabiti

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