News former Commonwealth Welterweight champion Ali Nuumbembe is to return to Namibia following a six-year adventure into professional boxing here in the UK has already been well documented. In fact, Ali’s remarkable life, from the civil war of his youth, the death and disappearance of family members to life in a caravan in Glossop, has also been recorded and retold thoroughly and comprehensively.
Terry Dooley, BBN’s engaging and expansive columnist, describes his own meetings with Ali and the joy with which the former Army captain always approached every aspect of his new found life. “Nuumbembe was also a first early interviewee for me, his story was a compelling one and it was one I will always be grateful to have heard firsthand. As a fighter it was always a pleasure to watch him, as a man it was an honour to meet him and listen to his life story.”
Like virtually every boxer I’ve encountered, Ali always had time for those who took an interest in his fortunes or in the sport of boxing. Boxers, almost universally, are the most willing subjects – particularly those beneath the bill-topping superstars for whom media attention remains a thrill and a welcome chance to promote their cause. But Ali’s down to earth charm stepped even beyond that. Perhaps it was the ugly conflict that darkened his youth or the humble caravan behind the Bee Hive pub, perched in the hills of Derbyshire, that endeared him so much to all that met him. For me, it was all of those things, and the warmth of the welcome extended by benefactor, guardian and manager ‘Chad Parker, but most of all it was the smile, that shy but ever present beam.
Chad relayed the story of how Ali’s nickname, Silent Assassin, was decided; a long list of possibilities was drawn up over a few pints at the Bee Hive and eventually, Silent Assassin was plucked from the list. “We were like kids in a sweetshop, looking at this list deciding on his nickname. My only regret is it should have been Smiling Assassin, “Smiling Assassin” that would have fitted him perfectly. He never stops smiling!”
Best wishes to Ali, the adopted family he leaves behind in Glossop and good luck in your return to Namibia – somewhere Ali always planned to return to regardless of his professional success. And success, the Commonwealth belt the pinnacle, never meant more to anyone than it did to Ali. Winning a title, was always Ali’s singular ambition and he did it in the backyard of a good champion too, Kevin Anderson, in a thrilling struggle.
Namibia will presumably open its arms to an honourable, decent man and a bloody good fighter.
Keep smiling Ali.
To read a full interview with Ali, from November 2005, click here.
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