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OPINION: Joy Ali, A Life Of Struggles

OPINION: Joy Ali, A Life Of Struggles
January 10
11:51 2015

No one thought that star middleweight boxer Joy Ali would end his life so early. His sudden death last week shocked the boxing fraternity as many of his fans were anxiously waiting for him to resurrect his boxing career through a proposed fight in Tahiti, next month.

That much-awaited comeback fight did not eventuate as fate took its toll on the 36-year-old champion.

It was a sad day for the sport especially to see Joy leave in such a way. Being raised in the poor squatter settlement in Vatuwaqa, life had been unkind to him, right from the start. Firstly, he did not have a proper education.

Then since he was the eldest of the two brothers, he was shouldered the responsibility of earning money to support his family at a very young age.

Joy was forced to hang his soccer boots and put on the boxing gloves, as he was to earn money for his struggling family.

“I still remember those days when Joy, who was a shy kid then with his brother, would help their dad sell razor blades along the busy Marks Street in Suva,” recalled former Professional Boxing & Wrestling Association (PBWA) vice-president Lepani Wilson.

“In the evening they would be hitting the punching bags in their Vatuwaqa home while at times former Golden Boy Sakaraia Ve would pop in to offer some tips.”

Similar sentiment was echoed by former chief cornerman, Marika Yalimaiwai who pointed out that the tough upbringing made Joy more determined to become the country’s best boxer and to get out of the neighbourhood.

“He would not settle for second-best and that made him train even harder. Joy was committed to his boxing and that was why no local boxer was able to beat him until his death.”

At the age of 16, Joy began fighting in the lightweight division. Over the years he moved up to dominate the welterweight, junior middleweight, middleweight and super middleweight divisions. The highlight of his career came in 2005 when he knocked out Ercument Aslan of Australia in the first round to claim the Pan Asian Boxing Association (PABA) junior middleweight title- this saw him get an automatic No.15 ranking with the World Boxing Association (WBA).

It was unfortunate that at the height of his career, it became evident that Joy was not ready to handle his other side of life.

“We can’t blame him. All of a sudden, Joy was there in the limelight. He had the money, looks and was trying to come into term with his new-found fame.

“The fact he was surrounded by new friends did not help either. The reality was that Joy was not ready to handle such a lifestyle,” Wilson remarked.

“I felt that Joy needed a strong management team like the one he had when he first started in Suva before he re-located to Nadi.”

An emotional Yalimaiwai said Joy struggled to handle those pressures and just like any other human beings he made wrong decisions along the way and paid for it.

“We all make mistakes. No one is perfect but I was not expecting it to be this bad, especially with Joy.”

This is nothing new when it comes to a controversial sport like boxing. We’ve to take heart that Joy is not the first boxer to go down this road, even former world champions like hard-hitting Arturo Gatti and the colourful Hector Camacho faced a much-similar situation and as a result they are no longer with us today.

But like them Joy will be remembered most for what he did in the ring.

Feedback: leonec@fijisun.com.fj

 

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