AFTER 23 years in boxing, the country’s trailblazing female professional fighter Monalisa Sibanda does not have much to show for her efforts.
BY MUNYARADZI MADZOKERE
But in her heart, she brandishes the marks and crown of a true champion considering the hurt and pain, as well as the battles she has had to overcome in her life on and off the boxing ring.
Her mother was murdered in cold blood by her stepfather when she was only nine, she dropped out school when she was in Form 2, lost a three-year-old daughter and is currently going through a divorce, yet she remains strong and positive.
In the boxing arena, she has had to deal with a lot of betrayal and at times had fights allegedly stolen from her, but all that has not broken her.
A little over a week ago on January 26, she celebrated her 35th birthday in style, beating Malawian opponent Eneless Nkahwanthi by a unanimous decision at the Friday Fight Night Pan African Boxing Series held at the City Sports Centre.
The aggression and tenacity with which she fought depicted a woman who is battle hardened and on a mission to win a world title.
“I am a strong woman. I am a champion!” she declared as she reflected on all the challenges she had to overcome in her life in an exclusive interview with The Sports Hub.
The boxer, who has taken countless breaks in her professional career has made one final comeback and is targeting the one thing that has eluded her.
“God has restored my strength. I am stronger and better than I have been before. My goal is to become a world champion and I am promising Zimbabwe that I will bring a world title here,” she said.
It looked all over for Sibanda four years ago after her husband Madzibaba Simon Tinofirei of Johanne Masowe WeChishanu Nyenyedzi Nomwe, decided to divorce after she had sacrificed her career to look after him following a life-threatening car crash in which they lost her three year-old daughter, Tatenda.
At one point she weighed almost 90kgs for a super lightweight boxer but according to Sibanda it took a word from local prophets Benjamin Murata and Walter Magaya to get her back on track.
“Everyone was urging me to retire but my pastor at Newlife Pentecostal Church prophet Benjamin Murata prophesied and said he saw a champion in me. Even prophet Magaya gave me a word and said: ‘All is well with you. Go and restart because I am seeing a world champion. At the beginning people will laugh at you, but I see a world champion.”
Prophetic Healing and Deliverance (PHD) Ministries founder Walter Magaya went on to give her financial assistance.
It has been a long road for Sibanda, a niece to former top pugilist Adolf “Hitler” Muungani, ever since she started her own journey at Wafa Wafa in a park called Matoko in Old Mabvuku when she was very young.
Sibanda’s parents divorced when she was very young and her mother remarried only to be killed by the new husband following a dispute and young Sibanda had to be brought up by her grandmother in Mabvuku.
“I used to go there and challenge boys when I was very young. That is where I was taught to fight but it was only after my grandmother failed to pay school fees for me when I was in form two that I decided to take boxing serious.
“I started to follow boxing events and had many fights as an amateur, fighting for the Zimbabwe National Army, hoping to get a job. I spent eight years, but never got the job and later decided to turn professional,” she said.
Sibanda became the first professional female boxer in Zimbabwe in 2005 after she defeated Zambian boxing queen Esther Phiri who went on to become a world champion, albeit with help from Sibanda.
she got the professional licence after the intervention of Minister of State for Mashonaland West Provincial Affairs Webster Shamu and she defeated Phiri again in her first professional fight.
“When the Zambians discovered that I was better than Phiri, they signed me in 2006. they wanted me to help her get better. We trained together under coach Anthony Mwamba. When Esther had a chance to fight for a world title two years later, they terminated my contract. I came back home empty handed in 2008.
“I was depressed and laid off boxing for a while. Life was hard. I ended up getting into a relationship and got married in 2011. The Zambians approached me for a fight with Phiri who was now Women International Boxing Association (WIBA) and Women International Boxing Organisation (WIBO) champion,” Sibanda said.
She started training again and she lost the bout by a technical knockout in controversial circumstances.
“I remember I was fighting better than her and it was hard to accept losing because I didn’t know what had happened. There was confusion because the referee ended the match under unclear circumstances, giving the victory to Phiri. Looking back, I think I could have become double world champion that night,” Sibanda recalled.
Another opportunity to fight for an Africa Boxing Union (ABU) light welterweight title presented itself in 2013 but tragedy struck for Sibanda as her estranged husband was involved in an accident in South Africa, losing a daughter in the process.
Due to pressing matters she could not fight.
In 2015 Zambian promoter Chris Malunga gave her another opportunity to revive her career, with a match against Loreta Muzeya.
“I knocked her out, but the referee was unfair on the night. Instead of counting while Muzeya was down, the referee did not count until she recovered and they wanted the fight to continue. I refused to fight and she was declared the winner. That was the most painful fight in my career,” she said.
A mother of three children, Salome (17), Andrew (14) and Trinity (2), Sibanda feels she has four more years of boxing to achieve her goals before she hangs the gloves.
With the financial and spiritual support she is receiving from a local women empowerment group, the Sadombas, Zimbabwean footballer Edward and his wife Sherlynn who are paying school fees for her son Andrew, Sibanda believes she will achieve her boxing goals.
Sibanda is currently doing Bible Study at Christ Embassy and has already decided the road she will take after boxing.
“I want to serve God after my career. Of course, I will train or help upcoming boxers but I want to serve God,” she said.