STARS OF THE PAST with BENEDICT TEMBO
FORMER boxer Michael Chilambe may not be known to everyone but the 56-year-old is one of the revered sportsmen in boxing circles in Zambia.
After spending most of his life working in casinos following his retirement from boxing, Chilambe has finally settled at Kitweâ€™s Royal Gibson Hotel, one of the new hospitality spots in town.
During his professional boxing career which spanned 23 years, Chilambe, who initially worked as an electrician for Piper Jobbing, later spent over 20 years in the casino industry starting with Edinbugh Hotel in Kitwe, Hotel Inter-continental in Lusaka, Fairview Hotel, Lusaka Hotel, Polo Grill and later as assistant manager at Smugglers Inn.
Now, Chilambe is the site foreman at the posh hotel, which is still being upgraded.
He participated in the construction of the hotel (formerly Compensation House) from scratch.
The fifth in a family of eight â€“ three boys and five girls – Chilambe was born on December 19, 1952 at Milambo village, Chief Milambo in Mansa.
His father Michael Mwalabo Milomo was a farmer while his mother, Elizabeth Mwansa, was a housewife.
Chilambe was brought up by his brother Jack Mumbulonga, their second born, who worked for Duly Motors in Lusaka.
Two of his sisters, including the firstborn, live in Lusaka while the other is in Conakry, Guinea, where she is married.
Chilambe attended his education at Mibenge Primary School in Mansa.
The former pugilist, who holds an awesome record of 46 fights in his professional career, of which he won 42, lost three and drew once, started his punching trade at Matero Amateur Boxing Club, which they called the â€˜barracksâ€™ in 1977.
Chilambe was with the likes of Patrick Phiri and Stanley Mulwanda in the amateur ranks.
The man, who was northpole, was once undisputed champion in three categories – middleweight, cruiserweight and light heavyweight â€“ and recorded 27 technical knockouts out of his 42 wins.
Before becoming a boxer, Chilambe played football for Don United, a club that was sponsored by the Dairy Produce Board.
When he shifted to Kitwe in 1980, he joined BCEL Club under Lemmy Chipili and two years later, became a professional boxer in 1983.
At BCEL, he found a star-studded cast of Enock Chama, Behonest Mweshi, Teddy Makofi, Gideon Makashini and the Musankabala brothers â€“ Albert and Francis.
Prominent among his opponents were late Zambiaâ€™s boxing icon Lottie â€˜Gunduzaniâ€™ Mwale whom he battered at Lusakaâ€™s Independence Stadium.
Mwale, who was then a shadow of his past glory, was badly beaten by Chilambe in a light heavyweight contest on April 3, 1994 in Lusaka after a dramatic comeback to the ring shortly after hanging up his gloves.
This was after Mwale asked for a re-match, which was granted, to show his supporters that the defeat he had earlier suffered at the hands of Chilambe was a fluke but the Kitwe-based pugilist was too good for him.
The fightâ€™s promoter Austin Chewe was shocked by Mwaleâ€™s dismal performance and broke ties with the former Africa and Commonwealth champion.
Reigning national heavyweight champion Francis â€˜Galagataâ€™ Zulu was the other notable victim of Chilambeâ€™s â€˜nuclear-packed punchâ€™ during four nail-biting fights to emerge as Zambiaâ€™s cruiserweight champion.
The other fights were against Douglas â€˜Busterâ€™ Chilembi, Charles â€˜Wasajaâ€™ Chisamba, Stanley Mulumbwa, Masozi Kamanga, Jimmy Zimba, Enock Chama, John â€˜Acidâ€™ Mwamba, Patrick Lyampesha, Roy Naniaala, Joseph Chola, Elias Chikwanda and Jairos Tembo.
Chilambe had a shock of his career when he lost to Nigel Benn in London in the first round for the Commonwealth middleweight title on February 8, 1989 after convincingly knocking out Tiger Wilson Chengani and Joe â€˜Jaw Breakerâ€™ Makaza of Zimbabwe on August 29, 1987 and October 2, 1988 respectively.
On the international scene, Chilambe beat Brian â€œKufahakuurayiâ€™ Moyo of Zimbabwe in the third round via a technical knockout on April 2, 1994 to be crowned Africa Zone Six champion and knocked out Lucas Omondi of Kenya in the 7th round on July 25, 1998.
He also knocked out Congolese champion Kazadi wa Kazadi through a knockout in the fourth round.
To be crowned national light heavyweight champion, Chilambe knocked out his outspoken arch-rival Chipundu Chipayeni of Kitweâ€™s Kwacha township in the ninth round at Matipi on June 27, 1993.
He was the first Zambian boxer to fight in post-apartheid South Africa where he took on Gerald Botis, that countryâ€™s middleweight champion in a non-title fight.
Following his illustrious boxing career, the Zambia Professional Boxing and Wrestling Board of Control chairperson Nelson Sapi urged Chilambe to consider venturing into boxing promotion, while the Zambia Amateur Boxing Federation appointed him technical director of the national boxing team.
Chilambe has paid tribute to late boxer and promoter Lemmy â€˜The Lion of Kitweâ€™ Chipili for being his first trainer, first managers Mike Jacques and Stephen Chomba for the role they played in turning him into a world-class boxer.
He is also grateful to Vincent Mudenda, who trained him along with Anthony Mwamba, William Sekeleti and Joseph Chingangu under Musemwa Stables in Lusaka in 1999 and John Mafinge for promoting some of his other fights successfully.
Among the fights he had after turning professional included knocking out Patrick Lyampensha in the 12th round at Buchi Stadium to grab the middleweight belt.
The only surviving male in his family, Chilambe has been married to Grace Mulenga since 1983 and they have six children â€“ three boys and three girls.
His third born Mirriam Mwansa is married to Election Commission of Zambia public relations manager, Cris Akufunaâ€™s son, Akufuna Akufuna.
Although he is busy overseeing the extension of Royal Gibson Hotel, Chilambe has expressed willingness to contribute to shaping up local boxers by grooming amateur pugilists.
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STARS OF THE PAST with BENEDICT TEMBO