Peter Oboh is a retired Nigerian professional boxer who fought mainly in Europe, winning the British light heavyweight and the Commonwealth titles before calling it quits in 2006.
In this intervew with Completesportsnigeria.com’s OLADIMEJI LOKO and JAMES AGBEREBI, Oboh, now a pastor shuttling between the UK and Nigeria, predicts Anthony Joshua will stop his opponent Joseph Parker in their world heavyweight title bout on Saturday night in Cardiff, Wales…
Tell us about yourself and how you get into boxing?
My name is Peter Oboh, I am a retired professional boxer. I spent most of my professional career in England. I won three titles; I was formerly a British light heavyweight champion, former Commonwealth light heavyweight champion and WBA Inter-Continental light heavyweight boxing champion.
When did you leave Nigeria to start your professional career?
I left Nigeria around 1990. I went to Italy and boxed as an amateur, but because I am not an Italian citizen I had to come back to Nigeria. When I came back I joined the Nigerian national boxing team preparing for an international tournament and was in camp for nine months. Fortunately for me, I was Nigeria’s number one light heavyweight boxer. Back then we were two rivals, Jacklord Jacobs and myself, vying for the sole ticket to represent the country in the same weight category. Back then there was a regulation that every boxer must win a medal at the All Africa Games before you could qualify for the Olympics.
Which All Africa Games was that?
That was in Cairo in 1991 which was the qualifiers for the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. Jacklord was chosen over me and he won gold for Nigeria while I had to go back to Europe to turn pro. I moved to Italy, then to the United Kingdom in 1994. It was in the UK that I became a champion.
What was your sojourn like after turning pro?
There is what is called boxing politics. You don’t really know until you get into boxing. A European would not want an African man to be champion. And also TV stations would not want to place big money on you because you are a foreigner. Peter Konyegwachi (Los Angeles 1984 Olympics silver medal winner) went through the same thing as well, even Jacklord Jacobs went through the same thing. David Dafiagbon, after turning pro, experienced the same the thing. But through God’s grace, I prevailed. While I was boxing, I discovered that if you are a light heavyweight, most times they might match you against a heavyweight. So you have to be extremely good and strong and be very fit. And should not put your hope on winning on points. All over the world, they rob fighters everywhere. Even in Nigeria they rob. So I had to train extremely well and become a one punch knockout specialist because if you knock out your opponent there is no way you can be robbed. Things started going well until it got to a point where I got stuck when I became Commonwealth number one contender.
At that time Nigeria was disqualified from the Commonwealth after (the late General Sani) Abacha killed Saro Wiwa, so we were expelled. I was advised to write to the Mayor of London that I am a Nigerian and we have been expelled from the Commonwealth, I was then awarded British citizenship. That was how I was able to fight for and win the Commonwealth title. Later I fought for the British light heavyweight title which I won. I also fought for the WBA which I won as well.
Let’s talk about Anthony Joshua and Jospeh Parker fight, what are Joshua’s chances?
I believe Joshua is going to knock Parker out because Joshua is a forward fighter and he is stronger. So I believe he will knock Parker out in the seventh round.
How do you see his prospect in boxing because there are boxers like Deontay Wilder waiting to fight him?
I think the problem Joshua has is that he doesn’t have a strong chin. He doesn’t have a weak chin, but a normal chin. Against Wilder, I believe Joshua can beat him, provided he is not careless. Mark you, Wilder can punch as hard as Joshua.
There is always this belief that due to Johsua’s muscle, it tends to affect his movement, don’t you think that might go against him?
Parker has not met a very good boxer in all his fights…
(cuts in) But he is the WBO champion…
If Parker beats Joshua, it will be an upset and in boxing style plays a big role. I don’t know if Joshua can box against a good mover but I know Parker is not a good mover, Parker punches forward which will suit Joshua. Now there are three guys Joshua can face, Parker, Wilder and (Tyson) Fury, and among these three Parker is the easiest that Joshua can beat. Remember Joshua is an Olympic champion, he has three titles and is almost running out of opponents. So if things go well he will beat Parker in the seventh round.
Are you saying this issue of picking fights for boxers still exists?
It does exist but because of Joshua’s reputation, they cannot just pick anybody. It has to be a known person. Joshua will make $20 million while Parker will get $7 million. So they cannot just pick anybody for Joshua, it has to be somebody that is good. Also, Joshua cannot hide from fights. But for people like Wilder, they can box who they can beat.
It is believed that Joshua struggled against Carlos Takam, do you agree with that?
I think Takam was the wrong opponent for Joshua. Takam is not an excellent boxer but he is strong and he can punch too. And Joshua was trying to stop Takam and in the process their heads collided with Joshua ending with a broken nose which slowed Joshua down. And the referee had to stop the fight when Takam could not defend himself properly. But that was not a good opponent for Joshua, that was too risky.
Do you think Joshua will retire unbeaten?
It is hard to say. But if you watch the heavyweight now, Joshua remains unbeaten for now. But I think Joshua can upgrade, he should learn defence as well.
Are you saying he doesn’t defend well?
Joshua uses the African style, punch for punch and let the best man win. He has to learn to be sleeky, cunning, clever, wise because in no time, the boxing world can manufacture another Joshua. So at this level he is shining but he must upgrade just like what (Muhammed) Ali did when he fought George Forman.
Finally now, do you plan to do something for boxing in Nigeria despite your calling as a pastor?
There are plans but there must be a back-up and a lot of money needs to be pumped into boxing. In England they call it the British lottery, they sponsor sports there. Back then England used to fail to win medals in boxing at the Olympics. But when they started having sponsors, they started winning. I have the plan of starting up something but just one man cannot do it all alone, I need people to come in especially the government.
Thanks for your time.
You are welcome.