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Sunday Dare: Dangote, Baba Ijebu ready to drive sports development

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Sunday Dare: Dangote, Baba Ijebu ready to drive sports development

Minister of Youth and Sports, Sunday Dare, in an interview with CHARLES OGUNDIYA has said the move by the country to have a good outing at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games started on Tuesday, October 15, with the meeting with the Nigeria Olympic Committee, federation presidents and other stakeholders…

 

 

Since coming to office as the sports minister, you have been moving around the country, what have you been able to achieve?

I have been able to go around, in terms of not just familiarization but also trying to get identify some of the key areas I would be pursuing. When you talk about sports development, you talk about infrastructural rationalization without which you cannot talk about development. I am also interested in the equipment that we have. I have been able to get the sense of what obtained in the country. I am not happy that over the years we have not had a maintenance culture, in terms of maintenance and management of these facilities, which has deprived our athletes of the necessary structure they need to train and we just have to pay attention to restoring some of these major facilities. I am not talking about the football pitches and the terraces alone, I have also been to the indoor sports hall, I have seen a couple of areas like the weightlifting gym, the table tennis and so on. After what happened in Morocco, we could see that we are very strong in wrestling, table tennis, badminton and others like that so we need to bring back some of these sporting facilities and government is committed to doing that by working with the private sector.

What prospects do you foresee in terms of sports development in  Nigeria?

Actually the future of sports development in this country rests on three major sectors, one is  developing a business model around sports in this country, that is bringing private money and funding the public/private ownership. The second leg is creating some kind of sports funds that will take care of welfare, the grants, the stipends for the elite athletes and for the local athletes. The third leg has to do with the facilities and infrastructure; we must bring what we have back to standard. For instance this country should have nothing less than a dozen world standard football pitches, but right now we can only speak of about two but I can tell you confidently from the  engagement I have had – I just finished the second private meeting with Alhaji Aliko Dangote and I can tell you clearly that  there is massive progress.  Recently, I had a one hour meeting with Chief Adebutu Kessington (Baba Ijebu), solid promises, we are set on a road that is irreversible but will bring the changes we need; they will be incremental.

These problems already piled up from the last 20 years, but I can tell you that we are taking those steps to correct them and Nigerians will begin to see these facilities come back. These are the three major areas that will bring back the sport development we desire in this country.

You came to Lagos to witness the training of a private athletics club, the Making of Champions, what’s the fate of private initiatives like that?

I had to cancel my flight to really come and see the athletes and see those behind MoC and the fact that I was there was a validation that MoC is blazing a trail that I want to see happening in this country. If we have about 12 MoCs with the same kind of model across the country, then we can be sure that our talents scattered all over the country will be well trained and this should be a major partnership between the government and the private sector. At the MoC, we are looking at three or four athletes that are Olympic Games athletes and they are very young. Like I said the ministry will give them full support; we are going to partner with them. Not only that, we are going to look at other outfits with the same model across the country, bring them together because we are trying to also look at a model in which we coordinate and give them support. That’s another public/private partnership.

You watched the Super Eagles game against Brazil recently.  With the performance, would that serve as benchmark to what to expect against Benin and Lesotho when the 2021 AFCON qualifiers begin in November?

I will start from the Super Eagles, what we have are a bunch of talented young players and we have an opportunity of breeding a new set of superstars. They have been playing week-in-week-out for their professional clubs across the world, we need to keep them together, and also nurture them together. What we saw on display was excellent display of skills, these are players with abundant talents, I have no doubt about them and we have already seen the areas they need to improve which I am sure the coach, Gernot Rohr, would have looked into, but by and large we have seen that they are a dream team. I have no doubt that when we meet Benin, the boys will get the victory.

At the 2019 African Games in Morocco, you promised to set up an endowment fund to cater for athletes, how far have you gone?

I did say that and conversations are going on at the moment. We need to have private engagements, we need to have corporate engagement and individuals, this is progressing as we envisaged. Remember that Chief Iwuanyanwu was the chairman of the National Sports Endowment Funds, we want to take off from that place. There is a board and we are going to have a new chairman, however, we want to make it independent and bring in more people with financial clout that could put money into the fund. Eventually, that fund is supposed to take care of the athletes by way of sustenance, their health insurance, and also provide grants for the elite athletes and also would help directly and indirectly to upgrade the facilities and equipment that we have across the country. So that fund is coming back, repackaged with a new drive and vision. We have some people within the country that have never been involved directly in sports, we are pulling them to come in to do this for our sports development.

A year to the Olympics, from what you have seen so far, are we sure of medals in Tokyo?

I am an optimist, and it is too early to call in the scores of this country. The preparations for the Olympics actually start immediately after the completion of one, so beyond what we see in Morocco and Doha, these athletes have been going for different tournaments and competitions. Individually, they have been training hard, that’s the preparation, they only come to championships as a group to compete and from what we saw in Morocco is a benchmark, same thing as what happened in Doha. It took us seven years to get another medal at the World Athletics Championships in Doha, but there were lessons learnt from the competition. This time around we are not starting too late and not too early too, we have about nine months to go, and we are all ready. Recently I requested all the federation presidents to submit their reports, update on camping, training and the athletes they are looking a. Based on the experience we had in the past, we are going to focus on the area we have competitive advantage, where we have athletes on the world stage already. We are not looking at 20 sports but seven or eight. I had a meeting with the NOC and all the federation presidents and the secretary in Abuja on Tuesday so that we all could be on the same page. We are going to be professional about this, so Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, Nigeria will not be going there to try, but we are going there to compete for the gold, bronze and silver.

How early are we going to see the camping and also the funding for the Games?

Basically if we have the funds, we are going to do maybe six months of camping. In the past we usually had three months, but this time around we are looking at five months, and that journey from the administrative aspects started last week Tuesday, when we brought all the key stakeholders and the drivers –  that is the federations – we started that process and we are going to have camping in three or four different locations depending on which sports. We are going to be focusing on sports that we can really compete and then we go there and compete.

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Abjuja J5 ITF Tennis: Quadre, Marylove ease into q/finals

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Abjuja J5 ITF Tennis: Quadre, Marylove ease into q/finals

Hot favourite and top seed, Oyinlomo Quadre, is on course  for a third iTF junior title as she powered past compatriot Omolayo Bamidele 6-1, 6-0 in the second round to book a place in the quarterfinals of the NTF International Junior Championship Abuja J5 ITF Circuit at the National Tennis Centre Abuja Thursday.
Quadre, who didn’t compete in the first leg, was dominant all through the encounter hitting lots of winners on her forehand in what has been a remarkable year
The Morocco-based 15-year-old sensation has been in superb form all year, winning titles in Megrine, Tunisia, in April and in Cotonou, Benin Republic, in September as her quest for her first title on home soil remains intact.
Her next match is against Jade Haller of Switzerland who walloped Maryam Salami 6-0, 6-0
Elsewhere, first leg winner, Marylove Edwards, who is now the second seed was also ruthless in her match with Morenikeji Durowoju, an Austrian of Nigerian descent with the US-based Edwards bagging a 6-1, 6-0 win to extend her winning run at the Nigerian capital to six games.
She will face compatriot Jesutoyosi Adewusi for a place in the semifinals as the latter defeated Rebecca Patrick 6-2, 6-4.

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Nigerian Armed Forces shine at international sports

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Nigerian Armed Forces shine at international sports

The contingent of the Armed Forces of Nigeria (AFN) have emerged victorious in the recent international sporting events in South Africa and Republic of Guinea.

The Acting Director of Defence Information, Col. Onyema Nwachukwu, disclosed this in a statement on Thursday in Abuja.

Nwachukwu disclosed that the Nigerian military contingent emerged winners of the recently concluded Military Skills Competition in Potchefstroom, South Africa.

He added that they also clinched 3rd position at the maiden edition of the International Military Sports Council – West African Liaison Office (CISM – WALO) Boxing Championship held in Conakry, Guinea.

“In the Military Skills Competition held in South Africa, the AFN participants comprising male and female personnel from the Nigerian Army, Navy and the Airforce bagged a total of six Gold, four Silver and one Bronze medals.

“The team also carted away the award for best participating country at the event. “During the military sporting events, the AFN emerged first, second and third positions in both the male and female categories of the 8 km combat race.

“In the Obstacle Crossing event, the team also emerged 1st, 2nd and 3rd positions, while in Combat swimming (Male category), the team took the 1st and 3rd positions, as well as 1st and 2nd positions in the female category.

“At the WALO – CISM Boxing championship in Conakry, AFN Boxing team won a total of six Silver and four bronze medals to clinched 3rd position, queuing behind Guinea and Cote D’Ivoire teams who emerged first and second positions,” he said.

The Defence spokesperson said that the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Gabriel Olonisakin had commended the team for their outstanding performance and conduct at the international event, describing them as worthy ambassadors of the AFN and the nation.

According to him, the AFN under the current leadership had leveraged on sporting activities as a veritable tool and rallying point to foster unity and synergy among security agencies in Nigeria and the ECOWAS region.

He added that this was part of efforts to foster peace and security in Nigeria and the west African Sub region, reports the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).

“Notable among the sporting events so far organised and sponsored by the DHQ are the Chief of Defence Staff, Armed Forces and Security Agencies Half Marathon Championship, the CISM Day Run and Security Agencies Route Match,” he said.

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Cameroon 2021: Senegal start well as other African heavyweights struggle

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Cameroon 2021: Senegal start well as other African heavyweights struggle

Senegal showed their teeth on the opening day of qualifiers for the 2021 African Cup of Nations but other continental heavyweights struggled to find form on Wednesday.

Nigeria could only scrape a 2-1 home win over tiny neighbours Benin while Cameroon were held to an embarrassing home draw by the Cape Verde Islands.

Cameroon are hosts of the next finals but are also participating in the qualifying competition, reports Reuters.

Assan Cessay scored two goals in two minutes for the Gambia, who went onto cause an upset by winning 3-1 in Angola to secure their first away victory in a Cup of Nations or World Cup qualifier.

There were also wins for the Central African Republic, Guinea Bissau, Malawi, Namibia and Sudan and a potential valuable away point for the small mountain kingdom of Lesotho, who drew 1-1 in Sierra Leone.

Senegal, runners-up in this year’s Nations Cup in Egypt, beat Congo 2-0 at home with first-half goals from Sidy Sarr and Habib Diallo as Sadio Mane provided an assist.

Nigeria went behind after nine minutes in Uyo where Stephane Sessegnon scored for Benin but a penalty from Victor Osimhen and the winner from Samuel Kalu ensured a narrow win.

It is the fourth time in five games that goal-shy Cameroon have played out a goalless draw in a stuttering start for new coach Toni Conceição.

Angola were ahead after two minutes through Wilson Eduardo but were hit by a double from FC Zurich striker Cessay before Sulayman Marreh added a third for Gambia on the stroke of fulltime.

Gambia had not won in 39 previous away qualifiers, including losing in Luanda two months ago in the 2022 World Cup preliminaries.

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Ex-Super Eagles player,Dickson Etuhu, found guilty of match-fixing

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Ex-Super Eagles player,Dickson Etuhu, found guilty of match-fixing

A Swedish appeals court has found former Nigeria international Dickson Etuhu guilty for attempted match-fixing.

The Court of Appeals in Stockholm said in a release on Wednesday said that it was clear that Etuhu and an unnamed former player tried to influence AIK keeper Kyriakos “Kenny” Stamatopoulos to fix a match in Sweden’s top division in 2017, reports the BBC.

Etuhu, who played for several English clubs including Manchester City, Sunderland and Fulham, escaped a jail sentence but was instead fined and sentenced to serve probation, without further details being made public.

The 37-year-old, who left AIK Solna in 2016, says he will be appealing against the ruling at the Supreme Court.

The court said that “the content of what the men submitted to the player (Stamatopoulos) was so clear that it should be considered a criminal offer of bribe.”

Etuhu had intially been acquitted by a court last year but that was appealed by prosecutor Johan Lindmark, who told local Swedish newspaper ‘Expressen’ that he was satisfied with today’s outcome.

“It was with satisfaction that I received the verdict today,” Lindmark said.

“I had appealed on the grounds that I thought the court of law would change and was not surprised when I saw the verdict.”

Etuhu played 20 times for the Super Eagles including at two Africa Cup of Nations in 2008 and 2010 as well as the World Cup in South Africa.

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Rohr vs NFF: Much ado about nothing

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Rohr vs NFF: Much ado about nothing

It is obvious, even if they will not admit it, that the Nigeria Football Federation hierarchy and Super Eagles head coach Gernot Rohr are not on the best of terms. The two parties cannot seem to agree on anything these days: from salary payments to contract renewal and squads, the two parties have been knocking heads lately. The once chummy relationship between Rohr and NFF President Amaju Pinnick is apparently on the rocks and it looks inevitable that the two will soon ‘file for divorce’.

At first, the noise was about Rohr’s salaries. While the German insisted that he was owed several months in back wages, the NFF claimed they owed only one month. After some back and forth, the arrears were cleared and everything seemed to be back on track. But then came the issue of Rohr’s contract which expires in June next year. Normally this should not be a big deal: the contract is either renewed or not. However, speaking about it on television recently, Pinnick opened another can of worms.

The NFF boss announced new terms for a contract extension, with a key condition that the coach must focus more on the Nigeria Professional Football League and spend more time in Nigeria. Notably, this had not been an issue in Rohr’s first two years in charge and Pinnick had appeared to be satisfied with the coach’s work. “Rohr’s contract is due for renewal in June and we don’t have any issue with him right now,” Pinnick said in a Channels TV interview last week.

“(If we’re to offer a new contract) we’ll strengthen the clauses that domesticate Rohr himself in Nigeria and to our leagues. He needs to go round, watch some of the leagues.” Pinnick has played the perfect politician’s game right there, claiming there is no issue while clearly highlighting that it is no longer business as usual with Rohr.

The German, never one to back down from any battle even if it’s one which he cannot win, in typical fashion stood his ground when confronted with Pinnick’s quote on the eve of his team’s 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Benin Republic. Rohr denied knowledge of any contract talks as he spoke to the press in Uyo ahead of Wednesday’s fixture against the Squirrels. “No he (Amaju Pinnick) did not speak about it at all. But I know that he has sometimes a different opinion like me,” Rohr said.

“But that is football. I never accepted to make a choice coming from the officials. My choice is to take the best players. “Unfortunately, we could not take more players from the league because they did not play (the NPFL went on a long break). So it was difficult for them to be fit.

The CHAN team also did not qualify. This is also proof that perhaps they missed competition. “I am sure that they have good players here. One of them is Ifeanyi Anaemena from Enyimba who replaces (Bryan) Idowu who could not come. Instead of searching out a player from Europe we picked this young boy. “We try all the time to give the best.

I know that some people may not be happy about my choice but it is my choice and it is always honest.” The key bone of contention here appears to be the need to have more NPFL players in Rohr’s squad going forward, although there is probably a lot more to it than meets the eye. Squad selection should not be a problem since it is the coach’s prerogative. The buck stops at his desk and he gets to get the credit or blame depending on results.

If Rohr and his assistants have not seen players in the NPFL good enough to be in his plans for now, so be it. He is the head coach and he knows the quality of players he needs to get results. A lot has been said about including home-based players in the Super Eagles regularly, but the truth remains that senior national teams are meant for a country’s best players. It’s common knowledge that Nigeria’s best players are based in Europe, the Mecca of world football. Almost every single footballer on earth with ambition wants to take his career to the big leagues of Europe (the English Premier League, the Italian Serie A, the Spanish LaLiga, the German Bundesliga and the French Ligue 1), including players currently in the NPFL.

It is from these championships that Rohr regularly draws his squad from. Where is the problem? Of course if an exceptional talent emerges in the NPFL, Rohr should give him a shot but it remains the coach’s call. Personally, I do not believe Rohr has been a raging success with the Super Eagles.

I felt the team should have done better at both the World Cup in 2018 and AFCON this year, the two tournaments he has attended. But he has his good sides: he has brought a lot of young players through and his squads are not usually filled with players who got in through the back door.

His press conferences and interviews are usually open, engaging and enlightening too. For the sake of the national team and the whole of Nigerian football, the NFF and Rohr should sheathe their swords and work together in harmony.

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Why I make late substitutions in games – Rohr

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Why I make late substitutions in  games – Rohr

Super Eagles coach, Gernot Rohr has lifted the lid on why he makes late substitutions in games.

Most of the substitutions by the German tactician often take place towards the end of the match.

The Super Eagles boss, however,  slated that his decision was to ensure he does not make mistakes and gives ample time for the players in the starting XI to make an impact.

“I always try to give the starting XI enough time to express themselves,” Rohr told the media.

“I also have to be very sure that the player I want to take off has done all he can during his time on the field of play.”

Nigeria will take on the Republic of Benin in their opening Group L Africa Cup of Nations qualifying game at Godswill Akpabio Stadium on Wednesday.

The three-time African champions will thereafter travel to Setsoto Stadium to slug it out with Lesotho in their second group match on Sunday.

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AFCON 2021: Eagles pip gritty Squirels

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AFCON 2021: Eagles pip gritty Squirels

…as Osimhen, Kalu shoot Nigeria to Group L lead

 

Super Eagles started their 2021 African Cup of Nations qualifying campaign on a winning note after they defeated the Squirrels of Benin republic at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium on Wednesday.

The victory moves the Super Eagles top of Group L after one round of fixtures, with Sierra Leone and Lesotho having played out a 1-1 draw in Freetown at the same time.

Striker Victor Osimhen scored a second half penalty to cancel out Stephane Sessegnon’s early goal  and Samuel Kalu produced a sublime efforst later in the game to earn the Eagles the victory.

Gernot Rohr made four changes to the side that executed the last international game versus Brazil, with Daniel Akpeyi, Wilfred Ndidi, Ola Aina and Samuel Kalu afforded starting spots in Uyo.

Nigeria suffered a blow after just three minutes in when some sloppy defending allowed Sessegnon to slot past  Akpeyi and put the visitors ahead.

Gernot Rohr’s troops were stunned following Benin’s goal, and they struggled to regain their composure in the aftermath of their West African neighbours going in front.

The Super Eagles only settled as half-time approached with Samuel Chukwueze hitting the frame of the goal in the 40th minute.

The three-time African champions weren’t to be denied, though, as Victor Osimhen dispatched a penalty on the stroke of the break after Ola Aina was fouled.

Rohr’s men started the second-half the brighter of the two sides without really making Fabien Farnolle work in the Benin goal.

The hosts completed the comeback just after the hour mark. Bordeaux wideman Kalu beat a couple of defenders and shot past Farnolle, who had no chance as the effort was cleanly struck and well-placed.

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Eagles still lack cohesion – Sodje

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Eagles still lack cohesion – Sodje

Ex-international Sam Sodje has said the Super Eagles Manager Gernot Rohr still has a lot of work to do on his team following their performance in their 2-1 win over Benin Republic in a 2021 African Cup of Nations qualifying match on Wednesday.

The former West Brom of England defender told our correspondent after the game that the team struggled in all departments and lacked cohesion in the encounter.

He said although there were no minnows in African football anymore, the Eagles should have asserted their authority on their opponents with their performance.

“Of course the team needs to improve in so many areas; it is difficult to mention a particular department but they need to play more as a team. We saw that there were no enough communication and cohesion and they were generally scrappy but I am sure the coach has noticed some of the mistakes and will work on them going forward,” he said.

However, the former Reading star hailed the players’ mentality, praising them for coming from behind to record the victory.

“We didn’t start the game very well but credit must be given to the team for overcoming that setback to record victory. In football, result is what that is matter not the way you play and it is good that they were able to defeat Benin Republic today,’ he said.

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Qualifying for OQT is not negotiable – Otis

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Qualifying for OQT is not negotiable – Otis

As Nigerians eargerly anticipate the commencement of the FIBA Africa pre-Olympic qualifiers, head coach of senior women national team, Otis Hughley says the team is fully focused on the task ahead. After masterminding the team to the 2019 Afrobasket title which has seen the D’Tigress climb to the number one spot in Africa according to the latest FIBA ranking, Otis said qualification for the 2020 Olympics Qualifying Tournament (OQT) is not negotiable. Speaking from the team’s base in Maputo, Hughley confirmed that preparation is going on as planned with all invited players ready to give their best when they start their pre-qualifiers campaign.

“We are aware of the task ahead of us. The culture of basketball is fast growing in Nigeria and the people are expecting us to win everytime we file out. These expectations have continued to spur us to want to give our all and represent the country the best that we can.”

Speaking further, Hughley said, “We must continue to show the world that we deserved to be the best in Africa and also become one of the best in the world.” According to him, the team ranked 16th in the world can get better and climb higher while achieving greater things as a group.

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GOtv Boxing Night Mini: Boxers talk tough

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GOtv Boxing Night Mini:  Boxers talk tough

Boxers billed to fight at the maiden edition of GOtv Boxing Night Mini have been speaking of their preparations ahead of the event billed to hold on Saturday at the Rowe Park Sports Complex, Yaba, Lagos. Typically, the boxers’ comments have been marked by boasts about their abilities and how such would swing things in their way.

Some of the boxers scheduled to be in action are Rilwan “Real One” Oladosu, reigning West African Boxing Union (WABU) lightweight champion; Rilwan “Baby Face” Babatunde, West African Boxing Union (WABU) welterweight champion, Waheed “Showmax” Shogbamu, Ola Adebakin and Cynthia “Omo Bobby” Ogunsemilore.

Oladosu, who is billed to take on  Adebakin in a national lightweight challenge, declared himself ready, willing and able to see off his opponent without fuss.

“ I am unstoppable. Tell Adebakin that he will see hell. I don’t even need to exert myself. I’m sufficiently prepared and he’d feel the full force of my preparation,” he said.

The lesser known Adebakin, however, responded that while he is an underdog, he will show Oladosu that underdogs can bite and dangerously, too. He bragged that he will inflict on the WABU champion his first defeat as a professional.

“Real One might be better known, but that will count for nothing when we step into the ring. He isn’t familiar with me, but did know him well, including his weaknesses. I’m ready to exploit this and put him where he belongs: on the canvas,” he bragged.

WABU welterweight champion, Rilwan “Baby Face” Babatunde, is also in war mood,  issuing a strong warning to his opponent, Dennis “The Range” Mba.   He said he has seen media reports quoting Mba as threatening him with defeat, something for which he would make him pay. “I’ve seen him boast in media reports, but he’ll be sorry at the end of the fight. He’d be treated like every other opponent who’s been foolish enough to face me,” he said.

Waheed “Showmax” Shogbamu and Semiu “Jagaban” Olopade have similarly swapped boasts, with the former vowing to leave his opponent in tears and blood.

Also, Ogunsemilore, who is billed to take on take on Omowunmi “Mummy’s Pet” Akinsanya in a national super featherweight challenge, said she expects to win the bout and improve her fight record.

“I am well prepared for this fight and I am primed to ensure Akinsanya continues to remain a “Mummy’s Pet” in the ring. I really need the win in order to show that my nascent boxing career is really progressing,” she said.

Also on the bout card is a national cruiserweight challenge between Kabiru “KB Godson” Towolawi and Tunji “Germani” Olajide.

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