Arguably the finest light heavyweight boxer of his generation, if not of all time, former Rössing Boxing Club protege Abiud Kanambunga was a mean puncher whose devastating blows left many an opponent with fractured jaws and permanent scars. The strongly-built Afro-haired leather trader inked his name in the local boxing folklore and provincial boxing rings after some eye-catching victories that made him an instant hit amongst sports followers across the length and breadth of his native land. He went on to represent his motherland with distinction in the hotly-contested South African Inter-Provincial Boxing Championships. Kanambunga’s inevitable arrival on the scene coincided with that of dozens of other promising young boxers, shepherded by the equally-talented Albertus Katiti, Hiskia Swarts, Ben Awaseb, Hiskia Shigwedha, Noah Tjombonde, Ruben Vilho, Erastus Kambauruma and Sacky Shivute, under the tutorship of retired boxer George Uarotua Mukuaahima. In today’s edition of your favourite weekly sports feature – Tales of the Legends, profiling our sports heroes and heroines alive and posthumously – New Era Sport brings to you, our esteemed reader, the amazing boxing journey of this likeable boxer Abiud Riangee Kanambunga.
Carlos ‘CK’ Kambaekua
The strongly-built young man from the great Kaokoland (Opuwo) was a beast in the boxing ring, possessing amazing power. Unfortunately, his promising boxing career was cut short when his unquenchable desire for equality propelled him to skip his motherland into exile.
Regrettably, his long-held dream turned into sorrow as the brother never reached the promised land of milk and honey. As it stands, mind-boggling questions remain unanswered about his whereabouts or rather assumed subsequent disappearance from mother planet.
Born Abiud Riangee Kanambunga in the unfashionable remote village of Onandera near Opuwo in the vastly-populated dry Kunene region in 1958, the pop star look-alike started his elementary education at the Orumana Primary School, where he learned the ropes in the dog-eat-dog industry of leather trading in 1973.
Upon completing his studies in 1977, Kanambunga left Kaokoland, only to resurface in the semi-desert mining town of Arandis, holed up in the more affluent Erongo region on the shoulders of the giant freezing Atlantic Ocean.
He found employment with Rössing Uranium Mine as a housing clerk. Despite his rookie tag, the new kid on the block used his leisure time indulging in sparring sessions with other enthusiastic boxers in the mining town.
And just a few years after joining the Rössing Boxing Club, the strongly-built light heavyweight amateur boxer was thrown into the mix of things for his maiden competitive bout during the annual South West Africa (SWA) Amateur Boxing Championships in his adopted hometown Arandis in 1981.
Kanambunga announced his arrival on the big stage with a convincing victory against his more experienced opponent, Kobus Prinsloo. He saw off his taller opponent via a vicious knockout to wrestle the national light heavyweight belt without having to shed an ounce of sweat, sending the clearly out-of-sorts TCL boxer to the canvass with a combination of well-planted body blows that would have left the great George Foreman green with envy.
His inside-the-ring prowess did not go unnoticed as the soft-spoken boy from Opuwo was elevated to the more glamorous position of sports officer at the uranium mine. Kanambunga rose to prominence when he was crowned the undisputed South African amateur light heavyweight champion.
He was duly selected to represent his motherland in a tournament between the South African Combined Forces and South West Africa (SWA). He was the only Namibian to record victory in that particular tourney when he whipped Johan Oosthuizen on points, in the process winning the prestigious award for the best SWA contender in the championship.
Although it was not one of his best fights, Kanambunga floored his opponent twice in the second round and once in round 3, to expand his record to 21 fights, complimented by a record-extending tally of 13 knockouts, 5 TKOs, with three defeats only. He also beat J. Nel of Free State on points in the main bout of a provincial championship.
In other action, the hard-hitting Namibian easily waltzed past homeboy Corrie Sanders in the final in front of a vociferous crowd in Johannesburg to become the first-ever truly indigenous Namibian to claim a provincial title in the light heavyweight division.
And although he was starting to get a bit long in the tooth, the boy from Opuwo successfully defended his belt at the South African Inter-Provincial Amateur Boxing Open Championship, at what by then had become his fortress in Jo’burg. In the meantime, the Beast enjoyed the upper hand in his countless battles with the hard-as-nails Prinsloo, coming out tops in many of their hotly-contested encounters back home.
Running out of decent opponents in his weight category, Kanambunga resolved to take an enforced sabbatical from the sport after an uninterrupted flawless boxing career, stretching to over a decade in 1985. He also beat the lights out of his much-fancied South African cop (police officer) opponent Sanders in a much-trumpeted rematch to retain the South African light heavyweight crown in fine style.
Tellingly, the boxing discipline in Namibia took a massive nosedive as many turned their backs on the sport at a time prominent boxers were reaching the pinnacle of their careers, whilst the lack of potential sponsors also played a significant role in the unavoidable decline of local boxing.
However, the Afro-haired hard-punching knockout specialist with a deadly right hook and quick jabs surprised friend and foe when he unexpectedly returned to the boxing ring from his self-imposed hiatus.
Local boxing promoters enticed Kanambunga to crawl out of retirement with a mouth-watering bout against former Rössing stablemate – then incumbent national light heavyweight champion Ruben Vilho – in what was rightfully billed as the biggest fight of the century.
As widely expected, Kanambunga made mincemeat of Vilho, dispatching the taller light heavyweight boxer to an unplanned brief visit to slumberland with a deadly right hook that had his unsuspecting opponent sprawling on the floor like a wounded worm slithering for safety in the second round of their 10-rounder to reclaim the national heavyweight title belt.
Like many other local athletes at the time, Kanambunga was not immune to racial prejudices and segregation. The Kunene Beast packed his bags and silently skipped the country into exile. Unfortunately, he never returned to his native land when Namibia gained her much-anticipated Independence in 1990.
There is the often-misplaced perception that those who did not return home from exile either perished in the notorious Lubango Dungeons in Angola or worse still, lost their precious lives while fighting on the front, without interrogating the possibility of other external forces such as getting lost in transition.
It’s argued that dozens of marginalised Namibians fleeing the country were captured by the trigger-happy South African soldiers (Koevoet) whilst trying to cross the border, and got shot dead in cold blood.
Kanambunga and former Blue Waters’ slippery attacker Neema ‘Lemmy’ Lazarus can be confidently chalked in that narrative. As it stands, there are no credible records or oral accounts about the pair’s assumed arrival or location of temporary habitat beyond Namibian borders.
May their gentle souls continue to rest in power wherever they lie, most likely, in unmarked shallow graves on foreign soil.