Meet Nigeria's 'Oldest Boxing Coach'
Ibrahim Akinola a.k.a Ola Akins, boxer for life, as he declares, is also a manager and trainer not just of the boxers, but champions.
'Left jab, fast, faster.’ The grey-haired icon mutters instructions to his wards at the gymnasium of the National stadium as the sun rises and spreads its warmth across at the Sports Centre in Surulere.
"Boxing is in my blood, maybe I would have been dead now if I was just sitting down and not doing anything that is this tasking," the coach declared.
Growing up in Lagos Island, Coach Akinola took to boxing years before Nigeria gained her Independence from the British government.
He says his first jabs were not thrown out of passion for the sport but in a bid to learn self-defense. Growing up in his community exposed him to several rivals especially amongst his peers.
It soon developed into his favorite sport, his addiction, his life.
Only his love for his wife and children surpasses his romance with boxing.
"I started fighting as a kid, my first fight as a boxer was in 1960 at the Glover Hall.
"For over twenty years I have been training boxers at the National Stadium and I am proud of those that have gone through me.
"I am proud to say I have produced champions and some of the boxers I have trained have grown to become coaches that are also churning out talents."
While admitting that not much has accrued to him financially, Coach Akinola feels fulfilled with the talents he has raised and remains committed to ensuring that boxing does not die in Nigeria.
"The government has not been helpful at all, but we thank God all the same.Although we are not seeing money in it, we have passion and that is what has kept us going"
Asked if he ever feels he may hurt himself due to his age, he replied;
"No, my family does not feel I am in any danger; I usually say you will always appear in the photo the way you pose, I used my body well while growing; I don't drink, smoke or womanize so by the grace of God my body is still functioning at its best”
While he has no plan to slow down anytime soon, Coach Akinola is happy his two sons - Lateef and Azeez have picked up his preferred trade and are on course to outshine him in the boxing ring.
"I have two of my sons already taking into boxing and of what I have seen of them, they will do better than I did by God's grace,” he said.