Just 20 years old, Rilwan "Babyface" Babatunde is fast becoming a household name in Nigerian boxing.
Fighting in the national light welterweight challenge contest, Babatunde emerged as the best boxer at the 11th edition of the GOtv Boxing Night held in Ibadan late last month after knocking out Waliu "Oganla" Arogundade in round three. For emerging the most outstanding boxer, Babatunde became the first boxer to win N2m at the GOtv Boxing Night.
In this exclusive interview, Babatunde told Completesportsnigeria.com's JAMES AGBEREBI how he felt winning the cash prize, how he got into boxing, his role model and why he is called babyface. Excerpts…
What was the reaction of your people at home when you got home after winning the N2m prize money of the 11th GOtv Boxing Night?
The reaction from my family and friends were massive. My mum was very happy for me, everybody was happy and congratulated me.
Did you ever believe that you will win the N2m?
I never believed that I will win the N2m. I only believed that one day I will emerge the best boxer but I never knew I will be the first boxer to win N2m since the GOtv Boxing Night started. In previous editions, I felt I did enough to be the best boxer of the night but God said it wasn't my time, that when it is my time He will do more than I expected.
How do you plan spending the N2m?
I plan to use it to help my family. And I believe this is just the beginning because I know I will still make more than N2m.
How would you describe your fight against Waliu "Oganla" Arogundade?
It was a very tough fight for me. Though I sustained a cut, but I didn't think about it, I knew I would stop him. Right from round one up to round three when I eventually knocked him out, I knew I was ahead of him in all the rounds. But I thank God because it was not by my power.
After becoming a champion at the Gotv Boxing Night, What is your next target?
My target is to take my boxing career to the next level, and that will only be achieved if I can get full support. I believe I have what it takes to go far in boxing, but without adequate support, it will be difficult. Also I know with boxing I can help my family to be okay.
Looking at your journey into boxing, how did it all started for you, as in how were you discovered?
Somebody in my area, one Mr Adam discoverd me. He normally see the way I train everyday – I have passion for boxing. So he approached me and said GOtv is organizing a trial called NextGen Search and advised that I take part in it. He was even in Ibadan to watch this 11th edition.
When was this NextGen Search staged?
It was February, 2016 which was the first edition here in Lagos.
Why did you decide to go into boxing, why not other sports?
I play football, even I have a team I still play for. I am a regular player in my team. I play in defence. I have once travelled to Ghana with the team for a tournament. But I have discovered that I am making it in boxing than football. Even my football coach had a quarrel with me that I have not been concentrating with my football. It got to a stage that we were not speaking to each other. But funny enough, he was the one that informed me that somebody called that I would be part of the 11th edition of GOtv Boxing Night. To say the truth, I really love football. Sometimes I don't even go for boxing training, rather you will see me training with my football team.
You seems to be in indecision between boxing and football. Which will you finally settle for?
It will definitely be boxing because like I said earlier, I am already making it in boxing.
You are known by everyone as babyface, how did you come about the name?
The name was given to me by Mr Jenkins Alumona (CEO, Flykite Promotions). He said I have a very young looks – that's why he gave me the name.
How did your family take to the nickname?
Initially they did not like the name because at home I was known as Lion. But as time went by, they got to like it.
Talking about role models in boxing, who do you want to be like?
I want to be like Floyd Mayweather. I love watching his fight, I love his style of boxing. He has made it financially too in boxing. I would love to achieve goals like him. So for me, he is my role model.
Did you ever got invitation to national camp ahead of a any tournament?
No, I have not been invited to a national camp.
And how has it been like working with a veteran coach like Joe Mensah?
It has been interesting. He gives me good trainingand honestly, if not for him, I don't think I wouldn't have gone this far. He is really a good coach and adviser.
Babatunde, it's nice talking with you.
It's a pleasure.