Not many injured 18 year old footballers would envisage a career in professional prizefighting. Yet, that is exactly what lay ahead for the teenage Freddy Kiwitt. When his local side in Germany shared facilities at a boxing club, the Liberian born youngster swapped the physio’s table for the squared circle. The football team was connected to the boxing gym in order to work on strength and conditioning.
If his start in boxing was a stroke of good fortune, he has his own hard work to thank for the progress he has made since.
“At the time, I was basically waiting for the doctor to tell me I needed to stop playing football and have an operation because it was quite bad.”
Football’s loss turned out to be boxing’s gain.
“We went to the boxing club and I never got pushed that hard. That was the turning point and I never looked back from there!”
If Kiwitt’s boxing origins are a little off the beaten track, the pugilist he looked up to and admired pulls him back in among the traffic.
“Muhammad Ali,” he states with a knowing confidence, “not just because of the boxing. Also for him as a person. He was the people’s champ. You know, he didn’t really care that much about money but he wanted to fight for the people and this is kind of what I’m trying to do. Especially with my program right now in Africa.”
It is clear that Kiwitt holds great pride in his African roots, but also remains proud to have a German father. We often hear how boxers backgrounds help forge them into the fighters they become and this is no more true than with Freddy Kiwitt. While he modestly doesn’t elaborate on his role in African boxing, Kiwitt has a key part to play as Liberian Boxing Ambassador. He is currently involved with apparel company BOXRAW in leading the Boxing Is Love project in his native country. If there is any additional pressure from this added responsibility it doesn’t surface. Kiwitt speaks thoughtfully but calmly as he discusses some of his battles in the ring.
As well as fleeing an African Civil War as a babe in arms, Kiwitt has been involved in some tough domestic dustups since moving to the UK. Twenty-seven years after departing Liberia, and eleven since lacing up the gloves for the first time, Kiwitt looks back fondly on some of his victories. And even the lessons learned in defeat. Although he has some good names on his record, including tough Irishman Paddy Gallagher, Jumanne Camero and Erick Ochieng, it is the name of Akeem Ennis-Brown which draws a wry smile.
“I’d say the best I’ve been in with would be Akeem Ennis-Brown, because he beat me. But he didn’t beat me at my best [at super-lightweight] so I’d say him right now. I learned a lot about myself, not as much technical but I was changing trainers all the time. Probably more emotional. Before that I thought I could beat anyone but that kind of put me back to reality. Boxing is not a game and you can get seriously hurt. It made me aware of things much more. I was quite down after the first loss as well, especially after the second too, against Louis Greene. I thought I won that one and that was the point where I wanted to stop boxing. Why should I go through all this? Not get paid much and that was the point I thought it would be it. But I put myself back together and now I box more freely. My trainer is good in that sense. He lets me box how I want and corrects certain things.”
The latest piece in the puzzle of Kiwitt putting himself back together, leads him to Vejle in Denmark. More specifically the Vinding Idraetscenter where he faces Andreas Maier this Saturday 9th November. Kiwitt’s recent run has taken him to the cusp of serious titles, with the opportunity of a top world ranking on the horizon. With that in mind, the good and the bad of boxing under his belt, what is the best thing about the sport for him?
“The discipline has helped me a lot. If you don’t put a lot in, you won’t get a lot out. It can change, not just your life, but many others. You want to change your life? You have to work the whole day to achieve your goals. The dedication and the motivation”