Boxing Sport

John ‘The Hammer’ Chibuta: Churning out boxers

WITH the mines no longer supporting sports development at the level the mining conglomerate Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines pampered clubs and its athletes, very little is expected to come out of towns like Chililabombwe.
However, despite the lack of corporate support from Konkola Copper Mines (KCM), there have been some gifted athletes who have managed to make a name for themselves.
John ‘The Hammer’ Chibuta is one such athlete who successfully rose to the top of amateur and professional boxing, cementing Chililabombwe’s reputation for producing high-profile athletes.
Chibuta, one of the famous boxers to have come out of Chililabombwe in recent years, is now giving back to the sport by grooming novice boxers in the border town.
Chibuta is running two boxing clubs in Chililabombwe – one in Lubengele, a municipality, and the other at Konkola Stadium.
For sustainability of the two clubs, Chibuta, a KCM employee, has partnered with Oriental Quarries Boxing Promotions in Lusaka where he sends boxers showing potential for refining.
He has so far sent light flyweight Alfred Muwowo who recently won a gold medal at the Africa Youth Games in Botswana and female boxer Nkumbu Silungwe.
Chibuta, who was born on August 23, 1971 in Ndola’s Lubuto township, was the fourth in a family of three boys and three girls.
His father Leonard Chibuta was a foreman at Monterey Printing and Packaging in Ndola while his mother, Edina Mwila, was a housewife.
Chibuta started his education at Kaloko Primary School in Ndola.
Growing up when the extended family was very strong, Chibuta spent most holidays in the border town with his maternal uncle, Edward Chipampe, who was a driver at Chililabombwe Bakery.
It was in the border town where he developed interest in boxing in 1983 and convinced his parents to transfer him to Chililabombwe Primary School and later qualified to Muleya Secondary School.
Chibuta’s cousin, Davey, liked boxing a lot. He took Chibuta along when going to the gymnasium to watch boxers train.
Chibuta’s interest superseded that of his cousin and transformed himself from a mere spectator to a participant after being impressed with the skill of the Musankabala brothers – Albert and Francis.
In fact, Chibuta revealed that his father never wanted him to participate in sport, especially boxing, and going to Chililabombwe was a way of defying him.
With his father out of sight, Chibuta was able to concentrate on boxing and his career grew steadily.
He lost his first fight to Andrew Tembo in Luanshya in the spider weight on unanimous points, then beat Steven Maselino on points and followed up with another victory over Dan Kabwe on points again.
Chibuta continued winning on points against Steven Mwansa, Protasho Mwape, Fred Mutambala and Pethias Chisala.
He took his form to the regional stage when he started fighting in the Federation of East, Southern and Central Africa Amateur Boxing Association (FESCAABA) tournaments in the late 1980’s.
In the run-up to the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Victoria, Canada, Chibuta was among boxers who benefitted from the Cuban stint where they camped for two months.
In 1995, he was among the six boxers coach Vincent Mudenda took to the FESCAABA tournament in Botswana and the following year, Chibuta fought at the Zone Six Games in Zimbabwe.
After about 25 fights in the amateur ranks Chibuta was confident he had fine-tuned his angling, jabbing, crosses and hooks to earn the ‘The Hammer’ praise name from his fans.
He turned professional in 2000 under Charles Chimumbwa, the former Nchanga legislator.
Chibuta grabbed the national title the following year after beating Floyd ‘Six’ Chongo.
In 2004, he became the first boxer to join Anthony Mwamba’s Exodus Boxing Promotions and was later followed by Esther Phiri and Kennedy Kanyanta.
In the professional ranks where he fought 18 times, winning 14, drawing three and losing one, Chibuta’s highlights included wins over compatriot Floyd ‘Six’Chongo, Zimbabwean Farai Musiyiwa, but lost to a more refined Uganda’s Badru ‘Mr Crush’ Lusambya for the Africa light middleweight championship.
Chibuta challenged for the World Boxing Organisation title against Pravin Chand but lost on split points yet again.
He was successful on his third attempt for an international title, this time the Global Boxing Union against Zimbabwe middleweight boxing champion Mordecai Donga whom he fought four times – twice in Zambia and twice in Zimbabwe – winning all the fights.
His attempt at the Global Boxing Union junior welterweight title ended controversially when American Kay Koroma won the title by a third-round disqualification on October 4, 2008 in Lusaka.
Koroma claimed he was head-butted by Chibuta. It was at this tournament Esther Phiri won a GBU super featherweight title with a fifth-round technical knock-out victory over Hondi Hernandez.
Chibuta, who had been leading on four rounds, regretted giving away the belt on a silver plate.
The loss devastated Chibuta, who said he had lost concentration.
When he recovered from the shocking loss to Koroma, he left Exodus Stables and migrated to Oriental Quarries Boxing Promotions under Chris Malunga.
In 2012, Chibuta retired and was offered a coaching role under Mike ‘Weaver’ Zulu and Greetings Mulenga.
In Chililabombwe, he is running Central Sports Club, a Konkola Copper Mines facility which spawns sports development in the mining town.
He co-ordinates basketball, chess, darts, netball and volleyball, among other sports disciplines which KCM does not want to die.
Chibuta, who lives in B section of the mining township, stages his boxing tournaments at a place called Square on the Chililabombwe–Kasumbalesa road.
Chibuta is grateful to KCM, which despite not supporting sport in Chililabombwe directly, has allowed it to thrive.
This has included the mining giant re-employing Chibuta as a driver after having been retrenched while on national duty in Kinshasa.
After appealing, he was reinstated.
The two boxing clubs he runs in Chililabombwe have enjoyed support from LTA and Lubambe mines.
The man who is most remembered for the punch which floored his opponents, is a caring family man.
He is married to Rhoda Lungu with whom he has six children – three boys and three girls.
Bertha, the firstborn, is doing nursing at the University Teaching Hospital, Lennox, the second born, is studying A levels at David Kaunda Secondary School while John junior is in Grade 12 in Chililabombwe.
Mike, the fourth born, is in Grade Nine, Purity is in Grade Six while Ruth is at Konkola Trust School.

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