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MY ONLY REGRET… – Joe Orewa, former World Boxing Champion

Jun 18, 2019

Our personality of the week is Joe Orewa, a former world boxing champion, first Delta State boxing champion and a complete Ika man. In this exclusive interview, he shares his boxing experience, lifestyle and also talks about his family.

 

Enjoy Reading:

 

Let’s meet you sir

I am Joe Orewa, born on 12th June, 1960, to the family of Mr. and Mrs. Steven Okpebo Orewa. My father had four wives. My mother alone had fifteen children and currently, I am her only surviving son. I am from Aliagwai in Agbor, I was born and brought up in Agbor.

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Tell us about your childhood days and education?

I attended Aliagwai Primary School, and then moved on to fide Commercial institute here in Agbor, while in year two, I had an appointment with Sport Council and was also attending boxing club. In 1976, Warri and Agbor boxing club met for a friendly match here in Agbor, I had an opponent called Fred Awoto, that was my first major fight, the return leg match was against John Eke. In 1977 there was  local Government sports festival, I took part and won gold. In the same year, we had Bendel sports Festival, held in Benin City, I participated and won gold, I represented Bendel State in National Sports festival, held in Oluyole, Oyo State, I won gold, we also had Boxing Day in that same year, and I won gold also.

FullSizeRender2 MY ONLY REGRET… - Joe Orewa, former World Boxing Champion

You seem to have started your career early, what happened to your education?

In year two, I got an appointment into the sports council. It was only one year and few months that I would say I was a student. The following year was more of competitions and camping. In February 1978, I was invited to the camp, they brought an invitation letter to me while in school that I should come for national sports festival. There was a national boxing competition. I won gold and became a national champion, at this point, seeing that I was always in Benin, since it’s the capital of Bendel State then, my coach had to work my transfer to Benin Technical School to see how I could merge my career with my education. Still in that 1978, I represented Nigeria in All African Boxing Championship in Libya and lost in quarter finals to Steven Mochoki from Kenya. I also went for the all African games in 1978, in Algeria and also lost in the semi finals.  In the year 1979, as a National Boxing Champion, I was already touring countries for boxing competitions, countries like Libya, Australia, Algera, Italy. In 1980, we were camped in the National Stadium, Surulere, Lagos, for about a year and four months, attended several competitions about four that year, in and out of the country. In 1981, there was Bendel sports Festival, I had to come back home to compete, I won gold again. The national Sport Festival was organized this time around in Lagos, I went back to Lagos competed and won Gold. At this stage of my career, school was not even on my mind, as there was no time to attend school and my education took the back stage, I toured outside the country, every three months for one boxing competition or the other.

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Obviously, you became a professional boxer at this point, tell us about your professional career.

There are different categories of boxers, I was under the light fly category, there were other categories such as light fly, fly weight, banther, feather weight, light weight, light wetter, wetter, light middle, middle, light heavy, heavy weight, super heavy. In the year 1981, I traveled to Thailand, Singapore and Cuba for boxing competitions. In 1982, National sports festival was organized again, all states had to do a minimum competition where I was selected to represent Nigeria in the Common Wealth Sport festival in Australia. I traveled to China in that same year for boxing competition. Nigeria was always invited for boxing competitions and there were this six squad members that often represented Nigeria in International competitions, they include: Peter Konyegbache, Christopher Ossai, Roland Omoruyi, Okorodudu, Charles Nwoko and myself; Joe Orewa. These were the people who put Bendel State in high esteem through boxing; their names were household names during that period. In 1983, there was only one competition, which is the National Sports Festival. In 1984, I represented Nigeria in the Olympics at Los Angeles in the United State of America, I lost in the quarter finals but my colleague, Peter Konyegbache won silver.

FullSizeRender2 MY ONLY REGRET… - Joe Orewa, former World Boxing Champion

With your many travels and competitions, were you making good money?

Of course, we had an issue in 1984, when some of us, about four of us wanted to continue our professional careers as international boxers but were told by Bendel sports council that we would be used as coaches, Roland Omoruyi, agreed to become a coach, but Christopher Osai, Charles Nwokolo, Okorodudu and myself disagreed totally with the council for a year. Isaac Euchoria, our coach declared no salary for us for that one full year. The national sports commission intervened, yet the Bendel council refuse to agree with us, after a year in 1985, we were converted as coaches in the Bendel sports council, while we coached we also kept our professional careers going. It was after a year and six months that we were recalled and given salaries again. While I was an amateur boxer, I had one hundred and eight fights, won one hundred and five and lost three.

FullSizeRender2 MY ONLY REGRET… - Joe Orewa, former World Boxing Champion

How did you manage your professional career and coaching job?

Despite the coaching job, the focus was still on the boxing career, four months later after we were reconciled with the Bendel council in late 1985, Charles Nwokolo was invited to the United States of America by Coach Nandy Moweta from voice of America. he left for the United States of America in 1986. Okorodudu also left in 1987 for the United States to the same camp. I was in Nigeria here looking for someone that will manage me in the US. I stayed till 1988 still coaching. I was looking for all means to as well relocate to the USA, several coaches and managers said I was too small (in body size) and that my category (Fly weight), and the weight I compete for is too small, they can’t take me to the USA only to fight fly weight categories, I stayed in Nigeria and continued training myself and coaching too.

In October 9, 1988, I expected an invitation from the Manager, Nandy Moweta to come to the USA and join my friends and colleagues. After series of pressure from Okorodudu and Charles Nwokolo for me to be invited to the USA. The coach refused so many times to invite me not until when the pressure became too much from Okorodudu, he had to sack Okorodudu. Okorodudu moved to another coach and boxing manager, a lady, Shirley Jackson whom Okorodudu requested that she should invite me to join their camp. She agreed and sent me an invitation letter. When I got to the embassy, I was denied visa, Charles Nwokolo then told me not to worry. He promised that he would convince Nandy Moweta, who would use voice of America’s influence to send me another invitation letter, which he actually did as he promised, I received an invitation letter from Nandy Moweta. The challenge became how to raise N8000 to buy ticket to go to America. I ran to several Agbor Unions in Lagos, Benin and Agbor for aid but got none. I did not have the money (N8000) because immediately my invitation letter came it landed straight at the Bendel sports council, and the managers and administrators of the council had to stop my salary since I was no longer with them and about to travel to the USA.

The truth is, all my mails and correspondence always comes to the Bendel sports council. There was therefore no means of having cash apart from my wife who has a beauty shop in Benin. While I was traveling I was always buying equipment for her shop. She was assisting me with small tokens to take care of myself and move around. The visa if not processed would lapse in three months but for two months, two weeks and a day, I had no means of raising the money, fortunately a friend of mine who resides in the USA, Lucky Egede from Agbor-Nta visited Nigeria. he helped me to call Nandy Moweta to send me air  ticket, there was no response from him, Lucky then called Shirley Jackson, who initially sent me invitation letter to send me ticket, in less than two hours I got my ticket, the N8000 I was running around for was suddenly settled.

When I arrived at the airport in US they had made so many arrangements to welcome me, even brought some dancers but on sighting me and seeing how small I was, they were disappointed and annoyed, the manager said she will not manage me. After sometime, Shirley Jackson agreed to manage me for a while since, I was already there and there was no way I could return her flight ticket. As at that time of my arrival Okorodudu and Charles Nwokolo were yet to fight any major title in the USA since their arrival.

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Your focus had been on going to the USA, now that you were there, what happened thereafter?

I asked the manager Shirley Jackson, how she would run my training and management, she said she would only manage me for three months, that even the house rent will expire in three months. She advised us to work out other ways to get another manager and leave the house. On the 26th of December 1990 after a boxing competition where I defeated my opponent one Victor Erko, I was called by one manager, Frank Espinosa, who requested to have some talk with me. I don’t even know him before or how he got my number. He said he was interested in managing me and that he wants to manage two Nigerians and one American, myself, Okorodudu and one other American called Tick Pin. A few weeks later, Brymo one Auchi guy also joined our camp. We became four boxers that he was managing. The new coach took us to different competitions, Tick Pin and myself who were not so huge won our fights and those who had very big appearances whom he expected to win and make big money from did not win. He then chased Okorodudu from his camp. I started supporting Okorodudu financially for him to stand and get another manager because he was the one who helped me to come to the USA. Okorodudu eventually got married to an American lady called Susan and survived through her. At the camp of Frank Espinosa it was only George Estrada, TP and I that was now left, George was a lightweight while I have also grown from flyweight to banther weight due to my victories in matches against boxers of different categories and my coaches constant feeding and trainings to prepare me for higher competitions.

At this point, I was the only one winning matches in Frank’s camp. He had to concentrate solely on me, chased every other boxer away and continues to feed me very well and constantly trained me. During this period, there was a heavyweight champion who had three belts title and lost the three in one night during a fight. My manager asked me if I would like to fight him, I accepted and trained towards it since I was in the number 8 contender category. To fight a number two was a great deal for me. We fought and I defeated him, My coaches then arranged for me to fight against the number one listed boxer, the world title, it was just a year and some months which I have been in Frank’s camp and have achieved this much. It was not my turn to fight for the world championship yet, but because of my coach’s diplomacy and my victory over the number 2 contender, I fought and won the world champion and became number 1, the world champion on June 4th, 1990.

FullSizeRender2 MY ONLY REGRET… - Joe Orewa, former World Boxing Champion
JOE OREWA with the Publisher, IKAWEEKLY Newspaper

Your professional career got to its peak, at this point, were you fulfilled?

Yes I was, all my trainings and efforts yielded success

 

Now that you got to this point, did you return to coach in Nigeria?

No in 1991, I came back to Nigeria, not to coach but to pick my family and take them to the USA. While trying to return to the US with my family, I was denied visa on the grounds that my first visa was for three months and I overstayed for almost two years, I explained that I am a world boxing champion and that I was too busy training and didn’t have time to go for visa renewal and all that. All my plea and explanations fell on deaf ears. I went to the embassy six times and still was not granted visa to the US. I left my properties, documents and even some money in the US with the mind of coming to Nigeria to take my family along with me but then I got stuck in Nigeria with all I have in the United States still there. I was told by my lawyer that I have broken the US immigration law. I have since retired from boxing as a coach and as a boxer; my going back to the USA with my family was as a consultant to boxers where I can be getting more money.

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When you were in the USA, did you get in touch with the Nigerian embassy?

It was very unfortunate, I couldn’t, I never had the time at all, I was preparing for my fights, I don’t even go out to see friends, nor go drinking , I was only training, eating and sleeping

FullSizeRender2 MY ONLY REGRET… - Joe Orewa, former World Boxing Champion

While you were having all these achievements, did you come across Ika people and did they rally round you?

I think they were just two of them, one person from Agbor-Nta, the other from Oki called Udu Alfred; I didn’t really have Ika people around me.

 

Any recognition or support from Nigerian Government?

No, not at any time, no awards, no recognition, no form of honour from the Sports Council, Sports Commission or Ministry of sports even though I have written them several times. I am the first boxing world champion in Delta State

Any affiliation or connection with your former boxing colleague?

Not really, we communicate off and on.

 

It’s been 28years now since you came back; do you still want to go back to the USA and for what purpose?

Yes, I have some of my important properties and materials with my manager. I am very much in need of those items as they mean so much to me. Since I got back to Nigeria, I have only been surviving, living from hand to mouth because I did not come back from USA with any of my properties. All my sweat during my youth age now. I am living like, I never achieved anything in life.

 

Since you returned in 1991, what have you been doing?

Bendel State have been splitted into Edo and Delta States. My name was transferred to Delta State, I coached in Delta Sports council from 1991-1996. When I voluntarily retired because I was not honoured by the government being the first boxing world champion in Delta State. Ever since I have been practicing physiotherapy; I have a clinic where I treat diabetes, BP patients, attritis and manage them in my local community in Aliagwai. It is called Joint Pro Sport medication specialist at 6A Ewuru road Aliagwai Agbor. That is what I am managing as at now some patients do patronize my clinic.

 

What led to you practicing physiotherapy?

In USA, we were always sent for physiotherapy after training, we learnt how to treat BP patient, massage boxers and other physical health matters, I learnt all of these and decided to introduce them here in my hometown.

 

Is boxing a good profession?

Yes, it is very lucrative, instead of being lonely or going into crime, go into sports.

 

Have you groomed anybody or created a boxing club since you returned?

No, because it is not an easy thing to start and going by how I returned

 

You mentioned your wife while you were talking; tell us about your family?

I got married in Benin in1988, to the Asifo family from Itsekiri. My wife was Roly Asifo. We got divorced in 1996, I later remarried in 2006 but my new wife died in December 2013. By the grace of God I have five children, three boys and a girl. My children are all graduates and one of them is currently in Germany.

Do you have any relationship with the Orewa of Ewuru?

Yes, I am of the descent of Orewa of Ewuru through my grandmother who gave birth to my father.

Who groomed or trained you in boxing?

His name is Joe Bandin from Aliagwai

 

Where is Bandin now?

He is late.

 

Religion?

Christianity, of the Roman Catholic Faith

 

Regrets?

My only regret is that I have not been recognized nor honoured by my own country as a world boxing champion

 

What gives you joy?

The fact that I am alive and seeing my children

 

Likes?

Friendliness

Dislikes?

Loneliness

 

How do you relax?

With my books and music

 

What is your best food?

Rice, any type of rice and in any form

 

How do you give back or help others?

When I was coaching I helped a lot of people to travel to different countries for competitions. I have several boxers in Europe today.

 

Are you a member of any club or society?

World Boxing Council, Idumueyi ka mma and oil meetings in Ewuru

 

Who are your mentors?

Mohammed Ali and Tommy Hense.

 

 

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