SUCCESS is sweet for Zimbabwe’s top female boxer Monalisa Sibanda who won the Women’s International Boxing Organisation title in Kenya earlier this year after 25 years in the ring. She speaks to the British Embassy in Zimbabwe about fear, fighting boys and turning the murder of her mother into something that spurred her on to fight for herself — and others.

Monalisa Sibanda: The journey has been long and tough. The first time I tried to fight for a title like this was in 2012 against Ester Phiri of Zambia in a double world title fight — the IBO and WIBA world title.

Unfortunately I lost the fight in the seventh round. Then in September 2018 I fought in Namibia for a WIBA world title. l lost. The fight was clean and clear. I dominated. But as is the case in many fights there are a number of factors that disadvantage boxers when away from home.
Ten rounds

This year the WIBA fight consisted of ten rounds. The going got tough early in the fourth round. My opponent was very competitive. I knew that I was at a disadvantage because I wasn’t at home.

I reminded myself that I had to push extra hard and leave no room for any unfair decisions. I dominated the fight from the fifth round until we finished. I kept telling myself: This is it.

It has to be done. If I am to fall ill afterwards let it be. But this is not the time. I have to fight. That helped me outclass my opponent in the last rounds.

I cried when the announcement came. I was the champion I had always wanted to be. God had done it for me.
I was happy and I am still happy because it is a dream come true. The reality has proved the great power of prayer and the power of dreams.
Tired of not delivering

My biggest fear going into that fight? I had been promising this kind of victory to my fans for so many years. I was tired of making that promise and not delivering. I was tired of appearing to be a weak person.

I had to tell God that I am tired of promising my fellow Zimbabweans bringing the title home and coming back home empty-handed. I prayed to God to help me deliver and he did it.
“I started asking questions”

Growing up, I was a strong child who was generally fit and sporty. Boxing was just one of the activities I was involved in on a social level.

Later on, after my mother was killed by my step father, I started asking questions.
I wanted to know why women are weak. I wanted to know why men were so able to beat women easily.

So I started boxing initially with the aim of empowering myself to beat men and boys. I didn’t want men to think they could just beat women and get away with it.

I would get angry at seeing other girls or women being bullied. I would challenge the bullies.
Then I got into boxing. Fighting outside the ring is not something I do anymore.
People believe in my dreams

Boxing needs a good deal of sponsorship. There is need for great commitment from both the boxer and the sponsor.
The training is a tough one. The diet involved is expensive: there has to be a healthy body-building process.
My managers and promoters have been there for me, doing their best. But good funding is hard to come by.

I have always survived because people out there believe in me. People follow my progress and see my sacrifice and commitment.

They believe in my dreams. Once in a while I get individuals who chip in to help pay for fights. There are Zimbabweans out there with so much love.
I use my boxing only in the ring

Boxing is misunderstood in our society. I have realised there is a misconception that because I am a strong boxer I am a violent person.

That usually spoils any potential relationship. I want to say: What has boxing got to do with love now? Can we talk about love without thinking who beats the other (laughs)? It irritates me a lot.

I have learnt to be disciplined through sport. Yes, there was a point when I was a stubborn young girl fighting every boy who insulted me. These days I am much more mature. I use my boxing only in the ring.

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