By Bamidele Johnson
As a boxer, Okorodudu Jerry must have faced a few vicious volume punchers. None, it’s safe to say, punched him with greater volume-and savagery-than life itself, which saw penury and grave ill-health deal him debilitating body blows, landing him on the canvas before knocking him out yesterday. Forever. At 64.
It was perhaps a miracle and a half that he lived for that long, given the conspiracy of desperate want, neglect and infirmity against him. It was a big shame that he never reached the heights his talents hinted he was capable of.
A gold medal at the National Sports Festival, Commonwealth bronze medal and a creditable showing at the 1984 Olympics did not look a shabby foundation. It was not automatic that he would be great. Sports don’t give such guarantees, even to better resourced artists.
It didn’t happen for him. He flamed out. I can’t claim to know why and how beyond the encounter with Joe Lasisi, which produced the legendary claim of double vision. Taking to coaching was the natural progression, but it was what eventually uncoupled him.
He was owed a series of emoluments, according to media reports, by the sports authorities. That punched him into the poorhouse. I met him through GOtv Boxing Night and GOtv Boxing NextGen Search, which he attended. At the time we met, forming some acquaintance with him, he had all the vigour of cream crackers. I almost could not believe he ever had the constitution of a boxer.
Whenever he barked instructions at boxers during sparring sessions, his voice no louder than a bedroom whisper. He had been crushed and had become a shell of the man he once was. When I woke up this morning and saw reports of his death, his voice and somewhat hunched figure were what immediately came to my head. I checked to see if his last Whatsapp message was still on my phone, but I couldn’t find it. All I found was “God’s time is the best” below the photo of a girl kissing a baby on the cheek.
Events after his death were almost as grim as his life, with the threat to seize his corpse over unpaid medical bills until a group intervened. The grimness has ended. Death ended it. He will feel no more pain, physical or emotional. Goodnight, Champ!