CELEBRATING ANTHONY MWAMBA
Over the last 15 years, Mwamba has been so associated with boxer Esther Phiri that his own boxing career has been overly overshadowed.
Most people only know Mwamba as Esther's trainer and nothing else.
Do you remember the year 1988 and what the Samuel "Zoom" Ndhlovu-coached Zambia national football team achieved at the Seoul Olympic Games?
That was the year the then-KK 11 qualified to the Olympic quarter-finals for the first time.
We also remember the 1988 Olympic Games for the 4-0 mauling of Italy and a similar scoreline against Guatemala.
Kalusha Bwalya's hat-trick against Francesco Rocca's Italy is another enduring highlight of the 1988 Games.
We have remained so engrossed in that historic feat that we have forgotten that apart from the football team, there was another quarter-finalist at the Seoul Olympics.
Boxer Mwamba was the only other athlete in the entire Zambian contingent to make a quarter-final berth.
In fact, even after the KK 11 had been booted out through a 4-0 drubbing by a Jurgen Klinsmann-inspired Germany, Mwamba remained the only Zambian athlete still in contention for a medal.
Mwamba now recalls that moment.
"After the Zambia national team was eliminated, they came back from Kwangju joining us in Seoul, the capital city. I was being encouraged by the footballers who were taking me to the gym.
"I had five fights to reach the quarter-finals and the guys who were accompanying me to the gym were Webby Chikabala, Eston Mulenga, Efford Chabala, and Pearson Mwanza. We had a very good relationship with the guys."
Three years after the Seoul Olympics, Mwamba would turn professional, to bring to an end 17 years of amateur boxing.
Having begun his career as a 14-year old in 1974, Mwamba had had quite an eventful amateur career that took him to many parts of the world.
His first international competition came in 1982, two years after he had moved to Lusaka and joined the Zambia Army-sponsored Green Buffaloes Amateur Boxing Club.
In the same year, he also enlisted with the Zambia Army.
From there, it was medal after medal.
In the International Military Sports Council (CISM) Games held in Lusaka, Mwamba won his debut gold medal before going to reach the quarter-finals in the 1984 World Military Games in Uganda.
Mwamba was again in the squad that won the 1985 championship at the CISM Games in Zimbabwe.
Thereafter, the Buffaloes team, headed by Captain Peter Mulenga, was invited to the 1985 European championships in Germany where Mwamba minted bronze.
Mwamba continued to record more achievements by winning gold on the trot at the 1985 and 1986 East and Central African championships in Mozambique and Kenya respectively.
His hunt for a gold medal at the 1987 All-Africa Games ended in disappointment as he was disqualified for being overweight.
In 1989, Mwamba reached the quarter-finals of the world championships held in Russia before fighting in the TSC tournament in Germany and another competition, the Goldova Gardin, in Cuba.
At the age of 30 in 1990, Mwamba won a bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games in New Zealand and turned professional the following year.
Among Mwamba's contemporaries in the amateur ranks had been Chris Kapopo, Patrick "Malubilo" Chisanga, Henry "Nigger" Kalunga, Tex Mwanza and Keith "Spinks" Mwila.
Mwila's bronze medal at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles remains unsurpassed in boxing to date.
After joining the ranks, a lot was to be expected from the hard-hitting Mwamba.
In two non-title fights, Mwamba defeated national champion Stone Phiri.
In only his third professional fight, he grabbed the national lightweight title from Lyson Njilamanda.
Later, Mwamba staked his title against national light-middleweight champion Mathews Mwape in a double title duel.
"In a sport mainly associated with post-active career financial woes, Mwamba is the only former Zambian professional boxer to have ventured into boxing promotion and achieved relative success."
Through a nineth round knockout, Mwamba became double champion.
Just when he appeared to be the next big thing after the days of Lottie Mwale, Charm "Shuffle" Chiteule, Chisanda "Kent Green" Mutti and John "Big Joe" Sichula, Mwamba dropped a bombshell.
Just after two years as a professional, he became born again and quit boxing.
He began to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, hence the nickname "Preacherman".
Seven years later, at 40, Mwamba made a comeback and defied age to register eight impressive fights.
In 2002, Mwamba retired for good from active boxing to concentrate on grooming Esther and, later, other boxers under Exodus Boxing Promotions.
I have known Mwamba at personal level for well over 20 years.
We lived in the same neighbourhood in John Laing compound in Lusaka from late 90s to early 2000s.
I would, later, work closely with him in the background when Esther was still an unknown gem in the rough.
By that time, I was working for the Times of Zambia.
Esther's ascendancy to stardom hugely helped in rekindling the interest of the Zambia people in boxing.
The Esther Phiri success story is proof of Mwamba's tenacity in the face of seemingly insurmountable hurdles.
In a sport mainly associated with post-active career financial woes, Mwamba is the only former Zambian professional boxer to have ventured into boxing promotion and achieved relative success.
After many years of carrying the Zambian flag, many former boxers are in dire straits.
It is for this reason that Mwamba has organised exhibition fights aimed at raising money for the suffering retired boxers.
"l have announced my comeback to the ring just to raise money to buy a rehabilitation home for boxers who are homeless. This is my vision. If l were as rich as Floyd Mayweather, I could have bought a house to accommodate all the boxers who are not doing fine", says Mwamba.
"My heart is with my fellow boxers who are not doing well. I'm calling on all former boxers who are upright to join me and help our friends. They did not chòose to be like that. They need help from us."
Yes, from all of us.
A belated happy birthday to Anthony "Preacherman" Mwamba!
The article was authored by Kennedy Lumwanya five days after Mwamba's 60 birthday on June 6th, 2020.
The former boxer and Commonwealth bronze medallist died on January 21, 2021 and was buried three days later on January 24 at Lusaka's Memorial Park.