Yusuf Changalawe is bubbling with confidence ahead of the Africa Elite Men’s and Women’s Boxing Championships slated for Yaounde, Cameroon, from July 25 to August 6.
With the Commonwealth Games bronze medal under his belt, the Tanzanian light-heavyweight boxer is aiming for nothing short of gold in Yaounde to emulate Willy Isangura, the first and the only boxer from East Africa’s largest country so far to win a gold medal in the Africa tournament.
Isangura won gold at the 1983 Africa Championships in Kampala, stopping Kenya’s Chrispine Odera in the second round of their super-heavyweight bout at a packed Lugogo Indoor Stadium. Tanzania placed 4th overall with one gold, three silver and two bronze medals, their best ever performance in the Africa Championships.
Changalawe, who lost to Scotland’s Sean Lazzerini in the semi-finals of last year’s Commonwealth Games in Burmingham, is convinced the knowledge he gained in England will stand him in good stead in Yaounde.
“I learnt several lessons in the Commonwealth Games, it was an eye-opener for me so I’m going to Yaounde with more confidence. My Scottish opponent is the toughest boxer I’ve met in the ring,” says Changalawe.
Changalawe does not see any opponent to stop him from winning a gold medal in Yaounde.
“I know all the African boxers, we’re used to each other. The most important thing is to prepare myself well for the Yaounde assignment.”
Well, that could be easier said than done for the Tanzania Peoples Defence soldier especially if all the light-heavyweights in last year’s Africa Championships in Maputo will be in Yaounde.
DR Congo’s Peter Kabeji Pita scooped the light-heavyweight gold in Maputo, and is likely to defend his title he won with a points win over the stubborn Algerian Mohammed Assaghir. The two bronze medals went to Egypt’s Abdulrahman Salar and Cameroon’s Junior Fotouo.
Changalawe is the only international boxer in Tanzania’s new-look team of 12 pugilists – 10 men and two women – travelling to Cameroon’s capital city.
“The new boxers are very determined, they’ll surprise people despite lacking experience in such a big tournament and we have the backing of our President Samia Suluhu,” says Changalawe who started boxing in 2006 in Mwanza.
“My father (Michael Changalawe) encouraged me to take up boxing, he was also my coach, I thank him so much because boxing has really changed my life.”
Changalawe started representing the national team in 2017. His first major outing was in the 2019 World Military Games in China and the following year fought his way to the quarter-finals of the Africa Olympic Games qualifiers in Dakar, Senegal.
He was in Tashkent in Uzbekistan during this year’s Men’s World Championships but didn’t do well, attributing his loss in the preliminaries to an injury.
Changalawe’s burning ambition is to take part in the Olympic Games and then turn professional.
Credit: AFBC Communications