Professional boxer Hannock Mbulu Phiri says his World Professional Boxing Association (WPBA) international lightweight triumph is sheer testimony that local boxers have the potential to compete on the global stage.
The 21-year-old, popularly known as the ‘Hardknocker’, defied the odds to beat Zambian Hillary Kataya on a unanimous points decision in their 12-round bout at Mulungushi International Conference Centre in Lusaka last Saturday.
His triumph came 24 years after a local-based male professional boxer Chikoya Mphande won the Africa Boxing Union (ABU) lightweight belt.
Since then, only Isaac ‘Golden Boy’ Chilemba—who is based in South Africa—has won international titles.
Said Phiri: “I am proud to have proved that with the necessary support, even local-based male boxers can achieve that feat. I thank God for everything.
“I went into the ring to prove a point and when I was declared winner, I was filled with excitement.
“Initially I was based in South Africa, but two months before the bout I relocated back home to step up my preparations. My plea to the corporate world is that they should get on board and support us.”
He also thanked his technical team, Malawi Professional Boxing Control Board (MPBCB)and Dr. Chiwoza Bandawe for their support.
Phiri’s next task is to defend the title this December against a yet-to-be-identified opponent.
“I will just rest a bit then get back to work. I am not sure who my opponent will be at this stage, but it looks like it will be a Briton. So, I am appealing to the corporate world and other well-wishers to help me have thorough preparations,” said the lightweight boxer who boasts four wins and a loss..
MPBCB vice-president Frank Chibisa applauded Phiri for his feat.
“We are happy that after years of trying, a local-based boxer has achieved what we have been expecting and promising.
“If there is a sport that is truly putting the country on the map, then it is boxing because last year, we won five international belts through Chilemba (twice) Anisha Bashir (twice) and Ellen Simwaka and now we have Phiri.
“We will soon ask for an audience with the Minister [of Youth, Sports and Culture], to show him the belts and prove that we stand head and shoulders above the rest of the disciplines,” he said.
However, Chibisa appealed to Phiri not to sit on his laurels, but work even harder to contest for bigger titles such as the World Boxing Council (WBC) and International Boxing Federation (IBF).
“The WPBA falls under these organisations and, therefore, it is imperative that he aims high,” he said.