In an exclusive interview session had with Nigerian knockout artist, Efetobor Apochi by Dr. Bisi Akin-Alabi’s SchoolRun Academy series on Instalive, where he emphasized on the essence of self-belief and self-worth, Kolade Elusanmi gives excerpts from the interview.
Schoolrunacademy: Can you tell us a brief about yourself?
Efetobor: First, I want to say thank you for having me, and I want to say “thank you” to everybody for joining me on this live session. It is a privilege for all of us to be here today. Happy Sunday to you all! I think you’ve told them everything they need to know. My name is Efetobor Apochi. I’m 32 years young all the way from Ughelli, Delta State, Nigeria. I have been all over the world, and I’ve been everywhere with boxing. I have been to many places, and I’ve seen. I used to be the captain of the national boxing team; I led the Nigeria boxing team to the commonwealth games and world championship.
Schoolrunacademy: You have not told them about the naughty you, the one that likes to pull my legs, to pull everybody`s legs.
Efetobor: You know that actually I always channel my energy on black people, because only the black man has not done for himself what others have done for themselves. I have been to many places, and I’ve seen people of color, but just to realize that it is only the black man that had done nothing for himself. Now, I’m in America, I can see what the white man did for himself. But, only the black man has not done for himself what others have done for themselves, and this is killing me slowly on the inside, and that prompted me to wanting to come out and say somethings that might contradict people’s belief about life. So, that is really where I am right now, you know in my present state of reality.
Schoolrunacademy: Excellent! Thank you, I like that. You must be a very deep person spiritually for you to be able to challenge people status quo, so that they can at least wake up and do something for the black race. Thank you so much for that. I will be asking you questions about mind signs later on.
Efetobor: (Laugh)…..I like that.
Schoolrunacademy: Now Efe, can you tell us how youths can be inspired to be involved in sporting activities?
Efetobor: Firstly, I will say it is good to celebrate one another. When you see people trying to do something really good, support them. Stop hating one another. When I started this whole boxing, I saw this hate coming from mostly my friends, some family members and some other people you know. This is not really inspiring us to do better, because when you condemn something about people, automatically you are pushing that thing away from yourself. There is a word my big brother, Von, always tell me, he said “when you talk bullshit about rich people you will never be one of them”. So, when you see somebody inspiring to do great, support!. Our parents should start supporting our children, and not just insisting that you must be a doctor, you must be a lawyer, you must be a nurse, you must be this, you must be that. NO. Sometimes, give them the opportunity to love what you want to do because, loving what you do is the only way to do a good job.
Schoolrunacademy: Excellent! Loving what you do is the only way to do a good job. I like that quote.
Efetobor: So, let the youth like what they want to do, then support them to do that thing they want to do by not pushing them to do what they don’t like in the first place. This is because, when I was growing up, my mum always say “you are going to be a lawyer”, and I will be like “I don’t want to be a lawyer”. She said my big brother is going to be a doctor, the other one is going to be an engineer. Why are you choosing for this people? We all have our own mindsets and consciousness to be what we want to be, do what we want to do, and have what we want to have. So, in that part, parents should stop telling their children what they want them to be.
Schoolrunsacademy: So, we should not push a young person into what they should do. We should let them find out what they love, and we support what they want. Can you tell me your journey to stardom, your own journey, how did it happen? Have you always wanted to be a boxer, or it just happened?
Efetobor: Not really. Back in the days when I was growing up in Ughelli Delta state, I was this young Mr tough guy. If you know what I mean by that, I was a street fighter, and I never knew anything about boxing. I was never involved in sports, but my father used to be a huge boxing fan; he love Mike Tyson. So, I growing up always see my Dad watching boxing, and he never missed any fight. That caught my attention. One day, I was just sitting with my father in the living room while watching boxing, and how his interest in everything really caught my attention. On this very day, it was all about Mike Tyson, and I have a conversation with myself saying “I can be like this guy”, and that was it.
Schoolrunacademy : You just fell in love with Mike Tyson and you dreamed. So, it started like a dream?
Efetobor: Exactly! There is a word my coach always say, he said “dream it, believe it then become it”. So, yes! I started feeling like “I can be like this guy”, moreover, I’ve been into several street fights, and I have always been victorious. That idea then stuck with me, but there was no place to become a boxer, and there was no place in Ughelli Delta State to become a boxer; no opportunity, nothing. There was nothing like boxing, and nobody has done it. So, this idea kept troubling me, running in my mind, and I was thinking on how I can become a boxer everyday. I was also thinking on how it’s going to happen, with this thought firing in my head consistently. One day, I saw one of my cousins who we used to call him ‘Uncle Tony’. Then, I said to him “I want to be a boxer, I will like to box. Do you know anything about boxing or anywhere I can go”? He said they just transfer some coaches to the new stadium built by the ex-governor then in 2006/2007. So, he asked me to go there and ask, probably they will be doing something like that there. I went there the following day, and to my greatest surprise, I saw athletes, taekwando, with a lot of activities there. I was surprised that has been happening and I never knew. I asked to speak to the coach, Mark Okoro , he was the grass root coach, and I went straight to see Mark. I said “I will like to be a boxer sir”. Then, he looked at me, and saw the toughness in me with all my muscles back then, because I used to be a body builder. If you are involve in street fighting back in the days, you need some muscles. So, I’m a natural body builder back then. He assessed me and asked me to come back the following week, and will see what he can do. I went back the following week, and we started this boxing gradually. We had no equipment as everything we used back then was improvised. We bought leather and gave it to a cobbler popularly known as ‘shoe maker’ to construct a punching bag for us. We were just managing and trying to create this thing that I am right now. We were just trying to bring it to reality, because I keep telling people that “The mind is all that it is, and all that will be”. There is nothing without the mind; see this cap, this cap came from somebody`s mind. You see the phone, the laptop etc, they all comes from human imagination. So, that is to tell you how powerful the mind is, and we have just been misusing the mind. We have been rendering the mind useless by not putting it to use. I would not blame the black man because, that is how the white man want us to be. We have been indoctrinated to be this way, that we cannot be able to do for ourselves what others have done for themselves. So, we started this boxing, and it was really local. It was a local boxing, but we were trying to make it interesting and everybody was really enjoying the whole scene. I have this charisma like everywhere I am, people always want to notice me, people always want to see me, and I really can’t hide.
Schoolrunacaemy: That is the Scorpio in you, same here!
Efetobor: Right, that is the Scorpio in us, and to all the November born.
Schoolrunsacademy: Thank you for that, we have been speaking to Efe, and he has said “becoming a boxer has been what he has wanted to be since when he was young, watching Mike Tyson. He just dreamt it in his mind, and he said to himself “oh I could be like this guy”, even though he had no clue how it will happen. Then one day, he was speaking to his uncle and his uncle said “there is some chap in one stadium in Ughelli”, he should go and check there for activities, and he got there and there was activities. He spoke to the coach, Mark Okoro, and he asked “are you sure?”, and the rest is history. But, one thing I will like you to know for those of you watching us is that, Efe said “everything begins in the mind, that our mind is so powerful and that they have to improvise for everything they were using at that time”. There were no equipments, no punching bags, there was absolutely nothing. But, this young man, because of the determination, mind, and his goal of becoming a boxer, look at where he is today. He started off by saying he has been to many places in the world, and boxing has taken him to so many places in the world.
Schoolrunsacademy: What are the qualities and values needed as a sportsman, because a lot of young people will like to share your dream, they will like to live in your dream. In fact, some of them are even dreaming your dream, but what qualities and values do you think they should aspire to develop in other to be successful?
Efetobor: Discipline is everything.
Schoorunsacademy: Absolutely! You are always at the gym. Anytime I try to chat you up, you are always at the gym that you will call me back.
Efetobor: Exactly! Discipline is the key. Firstly, you have to know what you want to do, then you have to love what you are doing, because if you don’t love what you are doing, you are wasting your time. For me, it has gotten to a point where I lost all my friends. I lost all my friends in the sense that we no longer hang out, like visiting the bar. All those parties, late nights you know, and all of those things I cut them off. These are challenging and I miss them. I like them back then, but in my mind, the only way to be what you want to be is to do what you have to do, and have what you want to have is to follow this path because those guys are not boxers. Now, you go and drink with them all the time. Playing with them all the time, be hanging out with them all the time, then in the morning you go to the gym. You have to pay the price of what you have done the following day, while some of those guys just go to their offices. Some just go to their normal daily lives, and they don’t do the same thing you do. Hence, you can’t be running around with them. That is one of the challenges. I will advise if you are a boxer, try and hang out with your boxing friends, because you guys are going to the same direction. You can’t want to be this and be going to do that with those people of less discipline. You have to be very disciplined. I always talk about food and people don’t understand. The thing you put in your body as food, the things you put in your body as drinks , all these are to electrify the body to give you the strength to do what you are supposed to do as an athlete. If you really want to be an athlete, all these are the challenges, and you have to choose a life, and you have to live that life that you have chosen. I see many people that want to be here, want to be there. Like my old mate back in the days, I see all of them doing some random things, and I will be like “boxers don’t do like that”, but they don’t understand it when I tell them that you know, boxers don’t do like that. Boxers don’t drink alcohol like this, but you can drink if you want to. I’m not saying don’t drink alcohol. I don’t drink, but I am not saying people should not drink alcohol, but if you want to be an athlete, you have to reduce and have to understand the life that you have chosen, because there is a price you gonna pay. If you know you are gonna pay the price, then you have to do what you have to do. You don’t have to go and be jumping around people who are working in the bank and people who are doing other things and leaving your life. Our life is special; if you want to be an athlete, your life is special and you have to live a special life. You can’t live a normal life so all these are the great challenges every athlete who want to become great in life should be thinking about. You have to understand that part of you. You want to be great right? Then, if you want to be great, you have to do what great people do. You cant be seen around the street running around women, great men don’t be like that.
Schoolrunsacademy: Okay! You have spoken mainly about discipline and about consumption. What you eat, what you drink. You have to be careful to know that what you are drinking and eating are not something that will make your body nourish and be fit enough to engage in sporting activity. And you basically talked about discipline and about your mind, and you must fall in love with what you are doing because that is the only way you can do it with a great mind. What are the challenges faced by aspiring to be a sportsman?
Efetobor: We have to be greater than our environment, because the challenge is our society, our culture, our environment, our education, and our religion. You know someone asked me what is really wrong with the Nigerian boxing and why is Nigeria boxing not growing? I said do you really want to know the problem with Nigerian boxing? He said yes!, and I said it is the same problem with NEPA. It is the same problem with the government, it is the same problem with the school, it is the same problem with our culture, it is the same problem with our tradition, hence, these are the common challenges. It’s a human problem, and we are all indoctrinated to be like this, and that is the same as believing Jesus. As a man thinketh, so is he. So, if we continue to think the way we think, we will continue to get what we are getting as nothing will change until we change the mindset of how we see the things. There is a saying that “if we change the way we look at things, things will change”. Nobody ever saw this whole boxing dream and representing Nigeria, traveling to America and so on. Nobody saw it coming, but I saw it. I saw it because I was not conformed to Ughelli, I was not conformed to Warri, Delta State, Nigeria. I was transformed by the renewing of my mind, because when you are conformed to the environment, when you are conformed to the society, when you are conformed to the culture and how the things are, then you will never see it coming. So, one of the biggest challenges is the environment, the society, and the people around you. They will always laugh at you, they will always want to bring you down, they will be like “Ughelli boxing where he won carry you go” I heard those type of words when I was coming up, even one of my friends said “Nathis Ughelli boxing won carry you go the international level”. People told me stuff like that, and I will be like kind of, just watch and see because, I was all in my mind, and was not conformed with the environment and society and what is coming out from the mouth of the people around me. These are the big challenges people will always want to use to pull you down. The system you are living in like our culture is always like that. People don’t like to support when you see someone doing something great. Instead of you to applaud that person and give him all the support needed for the person aspiring to be great, we tend to bring them down. These are the challenges we really face, as people were trying to bring us down, talk us down, even some of families. Nobody saw it coming. When I was going too hard, in the morning when they wake up they see me in the house before 6am, I am out. They will be like “shu” why is this guy so serious about this training like, is he not wasting his time, because the seriousness was too much for them to comprehend, but look at me today, I have represented my country not just representing my country. I won medals, not one medal not two, not three, I won medals for Nigeria and my name is going to be there forever. My children, grandchildren, great grand children and so on are still going to come and google my name, and they will still read about their great grand father, these are something I really feel good about. My fifth generation will still come and google Efetobor Apochi, and say wow!, is this our great, great grandfather? This is just the challenges that we face. The people around us will never support us, don’t even let that way you down. If you are in that position of wanting to be great and the support is not coming.
Schoolrunsacademy: Don’t you feel like the government is not doing enough because only one in a thousand people will be as determined as you are with no inceptive, no equipment, no awareness. What are you doing as a successful boxer to sensitize younger generation to love the sport. What are you doing for aspiring sport men and to bring the awareness of sport to the young Nigerian?
Efetobor: Boxing will take you everywhere you want to go, my coach told me back then, let me explain this to you. Back in the days my coach will bring the boxing gloves and he will show it to us, he will say you see this, I will be like this yes. He will say take a look at it, touch it, he will say this thing you are seeing here will marry you a wife. This thing here will take you to places in this world that you want to go. I will be thinking like what does that even mean? I will grab the gloves and be looking at it like how is this going to take me there. “Nothing has meaning until you give it a meaning”, said the coach. We were more that twelve athletes then on the local level, but everybody was giving meaning to what he was saying in a different level of consciousness. It then depends on the meaning you have been giving to what you are doing, like I said you have to fall in love first with what you are doing because, loving what you do is the only way to do a great job. So first, you have to love what you are doing. You have to know how and why you are doing this thing. Back then, when I picked up this boxing career, I saw everybody going to school. I saw everybody aspiring to be great. You know it is not taking them anywhere, then I thought about one day I am going to become a national champion and Nigeria will be paying me salary. I was like wow!, that makes sense. I will be like one day I am going to travel abroad, and I will be living with white people and I was like wow!!, that makes sense. Now, I am creating my own reality. So, I will say to the people: create your own reality, because you are the God of your own reality. God is not doing for you, God is only doing with you because if God is doing for us, God would have done for everybody since we are equal in his heart.
Schoolrinsacademy: Some people will not believe that, but that is another
Efetobor: Think about this, since we are equal in the eye of God, God should do for everybody and why is it not happening today? You will understand he is not doing for us, but God is doing with us. The power of God is in and every one of us already. So, we all have the power of God. The power is within us, so what are we doing with the power, your body is a temple so what are you doing with that energy, what are you doing with that source, that is the point.
Schoolrunsacademy: How do we help young people to have clarity about what they want to do? What are you doing with your success to help young people? Are you a mentor? Do you sponsor young people? Do you donate equipments to the local gym in Nigeria?
Efetobor: Anybody who know me from the beginning, anybody who read my story is already inspired, except you don’t have that vision. When you read about me, you are inspired but right now, I help my family, my brothers and sisters, uncles and aunties. Even my boxing team mates, the ones that didn’t make the team, I have been helping and sending and giving. I even have couple of clothes I will be sending to Nigeria just to inspire them. This is because back then when I was a local boxer, there was nobody doing all this for us, but now I send boxing boots, I send boxing gloves, and I always try to inspire people. If you read all my posts, you will see I just don’t post for posting sake, but I post to inspire people. It depends on the meaning you give to the post, so, I have been inspiring people in different ways to be and to do what their hearts actually desire.
Schoolrunsacademy: Thank you so much for your time and thank you for all you do for sport.
Efetobor: It has not even started yet though, this whole thing we are talking about have not even started yet. This is just the beginning, like now I’m a professional. I have just nine fights before this COVID-19, and we are hoping things will go back to normal. This is just a build-up, and when we build up to a certain level, then will go for the title shot and become a world champion. Then, people are going to feel the impact of what it is and what I have done and what l’m trying to do. I am still in the journey trying to get there, I won’t say I have gotten there yet, but you know because being here already is getting there, but, you know what I mean I am still pushing and striving and creating. People should not forget that part-creation, you, we are co- creators, and that is why we are here. How do we create? We create with the human imagination. Human imagination is the power of all things. Everything in existence today was once an imagination in somebody`s mind. Even the car we drive, even aeroplane, even cities and road. If you own a house, the house was once a land, you bought the land. There was nothing on the land but in your imagination, you are already creating three bedroom, four bedroom, duplex or whatever even before you call the contractor or the carpenter, bricklayers and so on, there is already an imagination in your mind of what you want to put here or what you want it to be.