THERE was an electrifying moment when he entered the PTA Hall in Dar es Salaam to witness her daughter Fatuma take on Nyasu Fundikira in a mosquito weight non-title bout recently.
This was a clear indication of the great admiration that he is still accorded among Tanzanian boxing enthusiasts.
This is none other than boxing legend Omary Yazidu, who has been at the centre of the Tanzanian boxing for more than two decades.
“I live and dream boxing as it's my major source of livelihood,” says Yazidu, whose name is synonymous with Tanzania's boxing.
Born on October 31, 1967 in Kinondoni District, Dar es Salaam Region, his career saw him take the nickname Joe Frazier -- a reference to the American boxing legend's tenacity in the ring.
Frazier, former heavyweight champion, won the first of his three epic battles with Muhammad Ali.
“I was far from being a Joe Frazier because, in my opinion, he had the biggest heart in the heavyweight history. He was incredibly tough,” says Yazidu.
“But I was happy to be compared with him because, as a young boy, I looked up to him. He was one of the boxers I admired most,” he adds.
And like Frazier, provocation or prodding wasn't necessary for Yazidu to come charging after his opponent, with his head down and his fists acting as sharp as horns, although not as explosive as the American's.
Yet, during his hey days, the diminutive boxer's name stirred amazement in coaches, while fans gushed over his skills and his rivals quaked in fear.
Yazidu, the sixth born in a family of 11 children (six boys, five girls), took an interest in the energy-sapping sport at a tender age while a pupil at Mwanyamala B Primary School in Dar es Salaam.
In 1979, Yazidu, then a Standard Five pupil, joined Kinondoni's Mandela Boxing Club, then one of the leading boxing clubs in Dar es Salaam.
He was the only pupil in the club, but those who saw him either sparring or fighting predicted a bright future for the boxing prodigy. He had an extra-ordinary career as a boxer.
He was a formidable boxer from an early age and turned professional in 1982, only days after the introduction of professional boxing in the country.
A few months later, he was left regretting his decision to join the lucrative ranks after the government banned it after some professional boxing bodies allegedly violated the rules governing the sport.
The associations that suffered the government's wrath were Mzizima Boxing Association (MBA), Boxing Union of Tanzania (BUT) and Tanzania Professional Boxing Association (TPBA).
“MBA and BUT were led by boxing legends Habib Kinyogoli and Emmanuel Mlundwa respectively, while TPBA was under Kabelinde,” says Yazidu.
Yazidu, like officials of the three associations, heaved a sigh of relief years later when the government lifted the ban it had imposed on the sport.
As an amateur boxer, and later as a professional, Yazidu won numerous epic bouts, but his national 12-round featherweight fight against Ally Mohammed is the one he still remembers most.
This fight took place in 1984 at the Vijana Social Hall, Kinondoni District in the city, but its memories are still fresh in his head.
“This fight was one of the most anticipated of 1984. Memories of this fight will remain fresh in my mind until the day I die. Mohammed was one of the best featherweights at that time,” he says.
“I laboured to contain him. After trading explosive punches for 11 rounds, I managed to put him at bay in the last round and snatch the national featherweight title on points,” he adds, smiling.
A few years later, Yazidu's career was subjected to yet another litmus test when he agreed to face Emmanuel Kimaro, best known to his adoring fans as “Sugar Ray,” for the vacant national lightweight title at the DDC Kariakoo Hall in Dar es Salaam.
At the well-attended fight, Yazidu dully delivered again. He won by an unanimous points decision and, in the process, became the first national lightweight champion.
The performance against Kimaro was arguably Yazidu's best to date as those who witnessed it can attest.
Nigerian Abel Amazaro and Abdallah Mgeni (now late) are the other well-known boxers who tasted Yazidu's wrath during his hey days.
Yazidu, the father of four (Akida, Fatuma, Halima and Leila), retired from active boxing in 2004.
And Akida and Fatuma seem set to follow their father's footsteps, as they have, in the last three years or so, been flooring their respective opponents almost at will.
Two months ago, Fatuma showed that women can compete in spheres most people think least likely when she traded explosive punches with Frida Mgaya in a non-title fight in Dodoma.
Yazidu, who has the credit of identifying some of the country's finest boxing stars, says his family is what makes him a happy man.
“I love nothing better than relaxing with my wife Zuhura, a great lady who means so much to me and our children,” he says, smiling.