His first loss as a professional pales in comparison to the obstacles lightweight contender Ghislain “Mani” Maduma (16-1, 10 KOs) has overcome outside the ring.
This past May, 31 in front of 80,000 hostile fans supporting hometown favorite “Mighty” Kevin Mitchell (38-2, 28 KOs) at famed Wembley Stadium in London, Maduma led after 10 rounds on all three judges’ scorecards by identical scores, 96-94, winning six rounds as he entered the 11th round, in which he was stopped after getting dropped by a left hook.
“It was tough dealing with my first loss but, how I performed was more important, and I did perform well in what I call a setback,” Maduma said. “Most of all I learned a lot about myself. I felt so much pressure going into the fight but I felt relaxed during it and 80,000 fans didn’t make a difference. It was a very good experience for me and now I really know how good I can be.
“I got a little tired at the end but, in the biggest fight of my career, I got too confident and starting fighting as if I had already won. It was just my fault because I was winning easy, felt confident, and got caught. Maybe the ref stopped the fight a little too early, but it was my fault, not the ref’s, because I didn’t finish well. It was a positive learning experience for me. I went into a big fight with only 16 fights (85 rounds), fighting outside of Canada for the first time, and he was fighting at home in his 40th pro fight (194 rounds). My mistake was due to lack of experience, staying focused, and finishing. I learned a lot and will come back stronger.”
Maduma’s promoter, Camille Estephan (Eye of the Tiger Management), agrees with his gifted fighter. “I truly feel that, as Ghislain himself said, he needed this experience against Mitchell and it was a step back for him but now 10 forward. A defeat can often derail some athletes, while others are propelled to new heights in their careers. I believe Ghislain has the character and intelligence that will allow him to learn from this and become a better fighter. It is scary to think that this guy can become better. Time will tell but we will do all that’s necessary, like always, for him to reach the top.”
Maduma was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo and left his parents at the age of 12 to relocate in the Hochelgaga-Maisonneuve district of Montreal, switching poverty at home for what turned out to be a new life riddled with racism and hatred.
“Compared to my life,” Maduma explained, “my loss was just a setback. I lost a big fight but got more recognition than I had in my 16 wins, which was a big step in my career. From where I came from in the Congo, I know I’m a very lucky guy to be where I am today. I’m blessed. I’ve taken every positive from my last fight and I’m moving forward. The loss hurt, for sure, but I will be a better fighter because of it. I can’t wait to see what’s next.
“It was tough living in the quarter of Montreal with a lot of skin heads, before I started boxing, when I was 13-14. Boxing saved me by helping me see people all over Canada, including other parts of Montreal and Quebec, and they were not like those where I was living. People were different than what I knew. Today is like a dream come true, what I’ve always thought about, and now it’s real.”
Maduma punch Last month, Maduma returned home to Kinshasa (Congo) to visit family, especially his mother who he hadn’t see in seven years, and old friends. Ghislain was so moved by his homecoming experience that he has started a foundation, committing 10-percent of his purses earmarked for Congolese organizations, the first heading to an orphanage for AIDS patients.
Maduma was approached by Congo officials during his recent visit about fighting this October in Kinshasa to celebrate the 40th anniversary of “The Rumble in the Jungle” in which Muhammad Ali knocked out George Foreman in the eighth round. (Note: Congo was formerly known as Zaire)
“Boxing fans there know me and they are very interested in working to have me fight there,” Maduma noted. “I’m hoping that Camille can make it happen. Congo will always be my home but I also know how lucky I am to live in Canada. When you fight for Camille, you become part of the Eye of the Tiger family….for life! So, I fight for myself and my family, but I represent Congo and Canada because these two different countries are what have made me. I know I’m lucky because I’m one of the best fighters in the world and someday I will be world champion.”
“The will is there on both sides to make this fight happen and I hope we will have an announcement soon,” Estephan added. “To celebrate the anniversary of Ali vs. Foreman would be a tremendous honor. We will have Maduma ready for the performance of his career in his native Congo.”