In this exclusive interview with select journalists, Ibadan-born Rilwan Owolabi Lawal, narrated how the living in Somolu, a suburb of Lagos inspired him to becoming a boxer coupled with the videos of popular Mike Tyson he watched on television screens.
People may want to know who you are?
I am Rilwan Owolabi Lawal by name. I am from the family of Alhaji Raheem Lawal of Ile Nla compound of Ile Adelabu Penkelemesi at Oke-Oluokun Ibadan South East local government, Oyo state.
In addendum to that, I am a professional boxer under the Nigerian Army Team, promoted by Saleh Fawaz of Saleh Gloves Promotions. I am a boxer with vast knowledge and experience in amateur and professional boxing with a track record of achievements, titles and decorations, highly motivated, disciplined and service-oriented attitude, commitment in all matters entrusted. I am a very proud fighter for the Nigerian Army Team, enlisted into the Army in 2013 as with number 70RRI.
You said you’re from Oyo State and have been an ambassador of the state in boxing world globally. How do you want Nigeria and Oyo State government to collaborate with you?
Yes, very correct, I have been a good and committed ambassador of Oyo state to the world in my capacity as a boxer, and quite frankly I do not intend to stop. I want to win more golds in the name of the state I come from simply because I love my state to my very best.
On that, it will however be pleasing to see the government to be part of my success journey and joining my future plans as to do it together and place Oyo state and Nigeria on the global map beyond where my great mentors in the field has put our map.
Let me say this as well, the life of a boxer can be very challenging from having access to world-class training facilities to being able to travel to developed society to challenge fighters there, meet promoters of boxing and many others. To achieve this generally is where government at various levels and private individuals need to support us, as we cannot do it alone in airlifting our talents and as well represent the country.
Just in my own case, It will be a great thing if the state government can help in making my boxing journey easier by assisting in the area of finance, official recognition, recommendations and that of moral.
It is not too good for our government to only come out to claim to love an athlete when he/she has achieved a feat and put the country on world map like what Anthony Joshua and Amusan have done.
We’re appealing that, they should help us when we truly need it.
Boxing as a sport, how did you get in, and what motivates you?
(Laughs), I grew up in Somolu Bariga, a suburb of Lagos state where I developed interest and passion for boxing. In this district of Lagos, it’s hard to be on the street in a week without seeing people fighting because of one thing or the other. It was from there I start mastering the boxing arts and I used to watch the Iron Mike Tyson fight on many televisions then. I have watched him knocking out his many and fellow boxers on stages. I also cultivated the habits of buying the popular sports newspaper (complete sport) for N30 back then just for the love of sport.
Hence, the inspiration of him, Mike Tyson moved me. I started looking forward to entertaining the world through boxing as a profession and by beating people and get paid for it instead of being a street gangster.
It was that time I acted further to start attending boxing class, and seeing fighters fighting in Olympic gave me another motivation to be part of the fighter representing my beloved country Nigeria.
All these and many others made me put in serious effort, focus, determination and ability to add more pressure to the sport than any other things. That’s what pushed me to the level which I am today.
You’ve had series of fights and compete in many local and international competitions, so far, what’s your favourite strike?
As a boxing professional and entertainer, I had many tactics but If knockout chances come I take it without wasting time against my opponent. But I don’t use knockout style most times; I take my time to study the strength and confidence therein my opponent as not to enter his trap. There can be an intentional trap from the opponent for you to fall in. And if not calculated very well, one might lose at that point.
In boxing world, there are hundreds of great legendary boxers, who among them are you looking up to?
There are many of them to be sincere, but I have special interest in Floyd Mayweather. I look up to him and follow many of his fights to learn.
In your next bout, what should we be looking out for?
Thank you, be looking out for nothing than victory. I am going out to add to my winning medals and with very good performance from me as usual. I hope you will be there to watch live as well.
Before we go, you’re a boxer, what does it mean to you? A world or a fun?
Boxing means a WORLD to me because it is everything to me despite enjoying myself while doing it in the ring in the presence of fans, friends and families. Because that is where I have been able to gloriously put Nigeria and my name on the global Hall of Fame.
Presently, I am the 2022 African Boxing Union Continental Featherweight Champion, 2020 West African Boxing Union Featherweight Champion, 2020 Nigeria Featherweight National Champion.
So, all the above and many more means a lot to me and that’s my WORLD in short.
On a final round, who are you dreaming to fight with in your boxing career?
In the coming future, I look up to fight all these so called world champions like Mark Magsayo, Rey Vargas, Stevenson Sharko, Gary Russell Jr, Josh Warrington, Brandon Figueroa, and others. All in their prime time.