Tadious Manyepo Sports Reporter
WHAT of a boxer who hung his gloves in frustration for 10 years, somehow finding a way to pick them up again and becoming the World Boxing Organisation Africa champion within a year of that emotional comeback?
Peter “The Sniper” Pambeni’s phenomenal story can probably be captured by Mau-Mau Boxing Promotions’ catch phrase “Peanuts to Diamonds”
Fittingly the 29-year-old fighter belongs to this stable.
Pambeni is the new WBO Africa Zone lightweight champion after he beat Namibia’s Albinius “Danny Boy” Kelesianu by a unanimous decision in Windhoek a fortnight ago.
Yet he couldn’t have carved his own niche into continental glory had he not witnessed first-hand tragedy unfold at Lake Chivero two years ago while on a routine fishing expedition.
After returning from South Africa, Pambeni found himself having to eke out a living from fish poaching.
“Boxing wouldn’t give me what I wanted. I knew I had talent. I had the discipline but lacked a little bit of dedication.
“I was passionate but wouldn’t stand going into the ring, win and get nothing.
“Unfortunately, I lacked some advice then. I cursed this sport and decided to tear off the only pair of gloves I owned.
“I decided to find other means to fend for my family,” he said.
With an expecting wife, siblings and members of the extended family looking up to him for survival, Pambeni decided to go to South Africa.
He would do menial jobs down there for the next six years before he was deported.
“It was difficult when I came back to Zimbabwe. I wanted to remain in South Africa where I was doing piece jobs but then we were always playing cat-and-mouse with the authorities there as I had no proper documents. I had to find ways and means to fend for the family who had waited for over five years while I was away,” said Pambeni.
Naturally, reverting back to boxing with a body worn down by years of toil as an illegal immigrant would be a pipe dream.
Boxing was very far from his mind.
Even his ex-promoter Tongesai Chisvo wouldn’t risk it. So it wasn’t surprising when he accepted the fishing nets bought for him by Chisvo. What he wanted was survival.
“It had to be done. But I have to be honest, I didn’t like it. But, with time, I became used to it and earned some meaningful income.”
But, someday in 2017, what had started as a normal day at work at Lake Chivero turned tragic as his friend drowned and his body was never recovered.
The incident drove Pambeni away and, suddenly, he felt he had to return to the ring.
Stalin Mau-Mau of the famed Mau-Mau Promotions saw something in him and took the chance. “It was a very difficult decision taking Pambeni under my wings. But I had to. After all I knew his history.
‘’Though he had left boxing for some time, I just decided to take a gamble. I saw something in him and I just thought, if he could listen to instructions, behave and shun some of the vices, he could still revive his career.
“But I tell you, it took hard work for us to really get him into shape,” said Mau-Mau.
Even Thomas Kambuyi, a board member of the Zimbabwe National Boxing Control Board, who first identified Pambeni as a little boy in Epworth had given up on him.
Pambeni, as fate would have it, secured his first fight in over 10 years in December last year against Takudzwa Ruchocha whom he outclassed in Harare. He would only have two other fights before getting the chance to box Kelesianu in Namibia for the WBO Africa Zone. And as they say, the rest is history.
He will have to defend his crown three times to be able to challenge for the WBO World title.
“I am working towards defending it in Harare in the next four months. I would like to thank the entire boxing fraternity in the country. It would have been a different story had Mau-Mau not adopted me and the boxing world not embraced me,” said Pambeni.