WORLD Boxing Council welterweight champion Charles Manyuchi will finally be recognised for his exploits with a State banquet to be held in his honour next Thursday.
BY HENRY MHARA
The boxer, who arrived in the country on Wednesday evening from yet another successful title defence when he dismantled Italian Gianculla Frezza in the sixth round in Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy, met President Robert Mugabe at his Munhumutapa Building offices yesterday morning in a dream come true for the Masvingo-born pugilist.
He then enjoyed another rare privilege of meeting Cabinet ministers before their session.
Manyuchi has been crying for recognition from the government since he rose to stardom a few years ago, and on many occasions blasted Sport, Arts and Culture minister Andrew Langa for failing to arrange a meeting with Mugabe. The Masvingo-born boxer is even on record saying he is contemplating changing his citizenship to Zambian because he felt he was not getting the appreciation he deserved.
However, that might have changed yesterday after he was granted an audience by Mugabe at his office – on a day he was also given a Nissan Elgrand car by his local sponsor Mr T35 for retaining the title.
The 26-year-old arrived in the country on Wednesday, but there was drama at Harare International Airport after his trophy presented in Italy was seized by the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra). He had to surrender his passport to get the trophy back. The passport is still with Zimra.
Manyuchi’s manager Chris Malunga of Oriental Quarries Boxing Promotions of Zambia confirmed the meeting with the President at a Press conference yesterday.
He did not give details of the meeting only saying Manyuchi had been presented to the Cabinet and that a formal luncheon at State House had been arranged for Thursday next week.
Other sportspersons who have gone to State House before including Kirsty Coventry have been rewarded handsomely. The swimmer received a golden handshake of $100 000 from Mugabe in 2008.
Malunga said Manyuchi felt honoured to have finally met Mugabe, but believes the boxer still deserves better from Zimbabwe, especially on the back of the “embarrassing” treatment he got from Zimra officials.
The reserved Manyuchi didn’t say much at the Press conference, only thanking the supporters who thronged the airport to welcome him home.
But it was Malunga who made a special mention to a group of Zimbabweans based in Europe including Uebert Angel who travelled to Italy for the fight.
Reports had suggested Langa also travelled to Rome to give Manyuchi support, but the boxer’s father Ortis refuted the claims.
Malunga said Zimbabweans should give Manyuchi the same respect that the boxer is accorded in Zambia.
“If he achieves the way he has achieved, that means Africa has achieved as a whole. When he got into the ring he was representing Zimbabwe, Zambia and Africa. Even when we were in the dressing room preparing for the fight, our (Zambian) President Edgar Lungu sent us a message to wish him well. He said I want you to win on behalf of Zambia, Zimbabwe and Africa.
That is the spirit we want from Zimbabwe, Zambia and all other African countries,” Malunga added.
He said they were pressing to get Manyuchi to fight British boxer Amir Khan as the Masvingo-born boxer moves closer to achieving his dream of becoming the world welterweight champion, a title currently held by American superstar Floyd Mayweather.
Mayweather has a gold title in the WBC welterweight ranks, Khan has silver while Manyuchi holds bronze.
Malunga finished the Press conference by blasting Zimra, saying its behaviour was uncalled for. He said he had raised the issue during their meeting with Mugabe. “It’s sad, medals have never been confiscated at the airport and it’s sad that Zimra could act in such a manner. This guy is Zimbabwean and is carrying a Zimbabwean flag so to be treated like that, no. We went to different airports on our way from Italy and people were appreciating us, and even helping us to carry the trophy. Then why in my own bedroom should my wife confiscate my trophy?” he said.