Zambian boxing heroine Esther Phiri’s career is feared to have come to a premature end following a steamy love affair with top Patriotic Front official Willie Nsanda.
Nsanda has threatened to inflict physical harm on any journalist in the country that dares publish the rather open love affair the couple is enjoying.
The famous politician, whose tale of rugs to riches episode is not different from his newfound love Esther who catapulted to stardom between 2006 and 2011, narrowly missed out on a Cabinet position in President Michael Sata’s government.
Nsanda – a PF Member of the Central Committee – tested the position of transport minister, though for less than 12 hours, before he was sacrificed when Sata realised a major Constitutional boob of over nominating members of parliament.
Dubbed the “Million Dollar Baby” by internationally respected American news channel CNN for the purse money she netted, Esther assumed instant heroine status for her boxing exploits that has harvested more than seven international belts from over 10 title fights.
Her February 17, 2012 fight with Zimbabwean Monalisa Sibanda could sadly as well be declared the last time the adorable 27-year-old girl from Mtendere last entered the ring.
And it marks the day her affair with the ex-Chimwemwe PF parliamentarian was made public as the sponsor-turned-boyfriend jumped into the ring to plant a deep kiss in the glare of television and newspaper journalists as well as fans alike.
Sadly, it could have been a farewell kiss to Esther’s boxing career too. Weeks before that fight, doctors in Lusaka were uncomfortable with the boxer stepping into the ring. It has emerged her promoters allegedly falsified medical records to see her engage Sibanda in a WIBO/WIBA light welterweight contest.
As fate would have it, Esther’s medical records later landed into the path of officials at Maina Soko Military Hospital in Lusaka. And she has been declared medically unfit to ever enter the ring again.
Her promoters did not believe the outcome of the results. A second opinion was sought from Nkanza Laboratories who sent blood samples to South Africa for further analysis. The result, whose details will be withheld to respect Esther’s privacy, was not different from what the military hospital had advised.
Esther’s handlers, including Nsanda who partly financed the promotion of the Sibanda fight, are dilly-dallying to announce the boxer’s retirement. Yet it’s all over. Doctors have warned and will not allow any such attempt to avoid a repeat of the 1997 boxing scandal when Zambian Felix Bwalya was allowed to enter the ring against medical advise and despite winning died nine days after the fight.
Her boxing obituary could as well be written. A mother of one, Esther graced the Zambian sports fraternity with pomp and splendour. She has revived interest of the sport somehow taking it back to the days of Zambia’s boxing greats Lottie Mwale, Chisanda Mutti and Charm ‘Shuffle’ Chiteule, among others.
International cameras descended on Zambia in search of Esther and her inspiring story traced from a poor girl at a community boxing centre run by Africa Directions in Mtendere to the popular woman that moved the heart of third Republican president Levy Mwanawasa to give her shelter in the upmarket PHI area.
Now her career ends not on the best of notes but one of moral degradation taking away the pride an inspiring story that put her on billboards and made children as young as three years old know and cheer her exploits.
Instead of being remembered for her outstanding time in the ring, she will probably be more prominently for hanging the gloves for a questionable love affair that may not last a mile.
That said; she still secures her place in the history of Zambian boxing for pulverizing such opponents as Kelly Coffer (2006 WIBF intercontinental junior lightweight title), Monica Petrova, Rodostina Valcheva, Belinda Laracuante, Elina Tissen, Hondi Hernandezi, a bogus fight with Ratrea Kreakae or is Filipina Viparat Laswuan in October 2008, Terri Blair, Duda Yankovich, Lely Luz Florez and Sibanda.
Esther has collected an array of belts including GBU, WIBA, WIBO and WBA during this period.