The punches that took his sight did not come from an opponent in the ring. Suleimon Alabi was hit during training with Rilwan (Real One) Oladosu, his professional counterpart at Calisto International Boxing Club, Lagos.
Alabi lived in Ajegunle (AJ City), one of Lagos’ most dangerous slums. He picked his dexterity in throwing punches. He followed up his muscular strength with consistent training after graduating from secondary school, and in 2017, he joined Calisto International Boxing Club near his mother’s shop.
Alabi’s sterling performance soon ranked him high enough to represent his club at several intra and inter-state competitions.
“He was doing well and had represented the club at the different boxing tournaments within Lagos,” said Siki Ola, Calisto’s manager.
He participated in the trials to represent Lagos at the 2018 National Boxing Federation (NBF) Festival for the Lightweight category in Abuja. He scaled through in early December 2018.
FROM FRY PAN TO FIRE
Whilst Alabi and his other colleagues of various categories were camped in Yaba in preparation for the national tournament, he was dropped.
He said, “My inability to travel to Abuja was not a case of disqualification but a fraudulent scheme”.
“I passed the trial and we were only training in the camp when the external coaches decided that I could not go on to contest for the lightweight; everyone was surprised. Even my contender that I beat to that level was not picked. No one represented Lagos for that category.”
After the disappointment, Alabi returned to his club’s training where he met Oladosu who was preparing for an international face-off. Oladosu had won several boxing belts and beaten Ghanian counterparts in the ring.
To prepare for the West African Boxing Union (WABU) bout ahead, Oladosu faced Alabi at his Calisto training. With a few punches to the face, water started coming out of Alabi’s eyes until his sight became blurry at the spot.
Oladosu would go ahead to win the WABU game that year at the Tafawa Balewa Square, Lagos, going home with the Mojisola Ogunsanya Memorial Trophy and N3 million cash prize. It was the 17th edition of the GOtv Boxing Night.
Oladosu had knocked out Mubarak ‘Morgan’ Hamzat in the first round during a national lightweight contest in December to grab the N3 million prize.
ALONE TO FIGHT DARKNESS
From one hospital to the other since December 2018, Alabi’s family sought medical help for their son but the situation worsened over time.
His mother told FIJ that Alabi’s club shared the cost of treatment with them initially. However, the moment doctors said surgery would cost N2.3 million, the support ceased.
“Whenever we were asked to pay anything, the coach would pay half while I also rallied for the rest,” she noted. “After Oladosu won his game, he gave us N60,000. At another time, he sent the coach to give us another N10,000, and that was all.”
In December 2020, Alabi’s mother consulted Natafod Consultants Hospital where his son was eventually diagnosed with Retinal Detachment and Cataract.
“The little funds from the club didn’t go far in treating my son at the government hospital and I couldn’t fold my arms,” the woman said. “I went back to show the coach the medical report stating that we would need N2.3 million for eye surgery, but all they gathered for me was N10,000. They promised to get back to me, but I have not heard anything from them ever since.”
Calisto manager told FIJ that his club had tried its best to ensure Alabi regained his sight.
“If we can see anyone to assist us up there, we will be grateful. Even when he was supposed to go for the National Sport Festival and he couldn’t, the money he was supposed to get, a sum of N49,000, was paid after he lost his sight,” he said.
“But we didn’t get any other help. Maybe because the issue didn’t happen on their own side. From our own end as a club, we have spent as much as we could.”
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