GOtv Boxing Night and The Rise of Baby Face~NEWSEXTRA - NEWS EXTRA ONLINE


Saturday, 5 December 2020

GOtv Boxing Night and The Rise of Baby Face~NEWSEXTRA

Rilwan “Baby Face” Babatunde. Age: 23. Occupation: Messing up faces. Title: West African Boxing Union welterweight champion; three-time winner GOtv Boxing Night Best Boxer Prize.

In any language, the resume above spells impressive. It is more so when it is considered that five years ago, Babatunde was training to be a barber and in his spare time, boxing as an amateur in and around the Lagos suburb of Egbeda.

The days of anonymity in the barbershop are now history thanks to GOtv Boxing Night, the platform on which he has risen to local and international stardom. These days, he is seen across Africa as he messes up opponents’ faces at different editions of GOtv Boxing Night. 

There have been 12 opponents and not one has left undefeated, with four unable to last the distance. One particularly dramatic instance was top Ghanaian opponent, Edem Biki, who had designs on Babatunde’s WABU title at GOtv Boxing Night 19. The title defence bout had looked like it was going to drag to the last of the twelfth round when Babatunde, using his considerable reach and power to deliver a vicious combination of punches to send the opponent sprawling.

The crowd cheered lustily, but the cheers quickly died down when Biki was discovered to be motionless and had to be rushed to the hospital where he regained consciousness. With the WABU title firmly in his grip, Babatunde has his eyes on the World Boxing Federation (Intercontinental) and the African Boxing Union welterweight titles. Locally at least, very few would best against him clinching those titles. 

His ability has also attracted attention from outside Africa, with offers to fight in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, both of which were botched by the Covid-19 outbreak.

Yet, it almost did not happen for him, not in the most straightforward ways at least. On a sultry morning in February 2015, he arrived at the Lagos Boxing Hall of Gym along with over a hundred boxers for the first edition of GOtv Boxing NextGen Search, an initiative just aimed at discovering young boxers on the verge of turning professional.

The boxers took turns sparring under the accomplished eyes of the great Obisia Nwakpa, Joe Mensah and Jerry Okorodudu for three days. The assessors drew up a list of those they considered to be the best. Babatunde did not make the cut, but someone at the venue recognised his latent ability and advised the selectors not to ditch him.

It was an inspired move, as selectors confirmed after the first cohort was put in camp. Perhaps watching him for much longer gave the coaches a better opportunity to assess him and within a short time, they were crowing about the speed of his development.

 His professional debut at GOtv Boxing Night 7 was solid rather than spectacular. But from there, he pushed on, defeating more experienced opponents and quickly clinching the national light welterweight title vacated by the explosive Olaide “Fijaborn” Fijabi, who had taken the ABU title. He would move to the welterweight category where he has continued impressively and has won the GOtv Boxing Night Best Award thrice, including last Friday when he knocked out Jubril “Terrible” Olalekan. The reward, in addition to fame and prestige, has come in cash of N2million, N1million twice and N500,000 when he was second runner-up.

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