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THE REMARKABLE JOURNEY OF ZAMBIA’S FIRST FEMALE AFRICAN BOXING CHAMPION

Updated: Nov 3, 2023

“Beyond being an African Boxing Champion, I see myself becoming the World Champion,” Zambia’s female boxer and African Champion, Margret Tembo says.


Margret Tembo, minimumweight (48kg) 2022 African Champion
Margret Tembo, minimumweight (48kg) 2022 African Champion

The journey of a girl who dared to defy gender stereotypes to become Zambia's first ever female gold medalist and an international boxing sensation is nothing short of remarkable. While many frowned upon her early passion for boxing, she continued to pursue her dream, inspired by the legendary Women's International Boxing Association (WIBA) Welterweight World Champion Esther Phiri.


The only girl among seven siblings, she was born on 21 June, 1999 in Lusaka, Zambia's Capital, and went to Nelson Mandela Secondary School in Lusaka. At 12 years old, she began to actualize her passion for sport and joined Exodus Boxing Academy established by the late Antony Mumba, which provided her with the much-needed grooming and training, from a tender age. She embraced a sport that many considered male-dominated, a choice that ignited a spark of resistance from both her family and her local community.

"I grew up watching the female boxing champion Esther Phiri and was greatly inspired by her tactics and focus in the sport, this pushed me even more to pursue my passion, boxing is in me, I am in boxing" she said.

She narrates how her journey was never a walk in the park, marked by sacrifices, particularly regarding her mother's initial resistance to her career choice, and recalls how many would question what a girl child was doing in boxing echoing to her that she would not get married if she continues with the sport. Yet, Margret's love for boxing continued to grow stronger with her eventually representing the country in international competitions.


Margret's determination reached a turning point when she broke the news to her mother that she had been selected to represent Zambia in Botswana. The news not only changed her mother's perspective but also turned her into Margret's staunchest supporter. The female boxer reflects on her challenging path, where she faced gender-based criticism from those who questioned a girl's place in the boxing ring.


Her career breakthrough came during her first international competition in Botswana at the Africa Zone 4 Senior Boxing Championships, a moment she describes as nerve-wracking. Supported by her coach and teammates, she fought heroically, securing the second position and earning a silver medal.


“I faced some of the greatest boxers to secure a medal, with my supportive coach who encouraged me, I defeated three opponents to reach the finals as they say you, have to be the best to beat the best and in that moment I had to be the best,” she narrated.

After this competition, her morale was boosted especially upon arrival at the airport from the competition, she was received with cheers which made her feel she was indeed doing the right thing.


A few years later she competed in the African Zone 4 Boxing Championships for Southern Africa Region in Maputo held in April, 2022. She became a Gold Medalist after securing the first position.


Margret's hard work and dedication were acknowledged on the global stage when she was recognized as the 2020 Best Female Boxer by the International Boxing Association (IBA), a moment she describes as one of the best highlights in her career. While these accomplishments are already remarkable, Margret believes that her career has even greater heights to scale.


Her remarkable journey reached its zenith in 2022 when she was selected to compete at the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games where she managed to advance to the quarterfinals thereafter she went on to become Zambia's first female African Champion in Maputo, Mozambique earning a Gold medal during the African Elite Men's and Women's Boxing Championships.


Margret declared winner to advance to the quarter finals during the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games
Margret declared winner to advance to the quarter finals during the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games

As she now sets her sights on the Paris 2024 Olympics, she has already participated in the Olympic qualifiers in Dakar, Senegal. Although she did not secure a slot this time, Margret remains determined to qualify for the Olympics, putting in the hard work and effort required.

"I believe am among the best and am determined to put in the much needed effort to perform better in the other competitions," Margret said.

Margret in gym training
Margret in gym training

Like every successful journey is without obstacles, Margret narrates how her journey has been challenging and discouraging at some points referring to when she failed to make the team to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.


"I thought my career had ended right there, it was always my dream to compete at the Olympic Games but the support and encouragement from my mother helped me rise above the obstacle,” she said.

In her career, she has secured several Gold medals both locally and internationally. Margret Tembo's story is an inspiration for not only aspiring athletes but also for anyone with a dream. She has redefined gender norms, defying stereotypes and prejudices. Her message to young people is never give up on the dreams, no matter the negativity that may surround them. She further wishes that more facilities may be erected and some upgraded to offer a chance to younger athletes to shape their athletic abilities.


She joined the Green Buffaloes, earlier this year and currently competes in the minimum weight category, weighing in at 45 to 48 kilograms. Margret is not just a boxer; she's a role model, and her journey continues to inspire a new generation of athletes in the country.

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