The champ's last bow
BLOW BY BLOW: Nkabiti's last action picture

Nkabiti to be laid to rest this Saturday

In Herbert Nkabiti’s now iconic picture, Botswana’s international junior welterweight boxer has gone in with his right, breaching his South African opponent, Willers Baloyi’s guard, while he readies his notorious left hook for the pacifier.

Did that punch ever land?

In the picture, Nkabiti looks fit and healthy. His muscles ripple, his toned body glistens with sweat and his eyes gleam with an intense desire to succeed.

Minutes later and the legendary boxer suffered a serious head injury, which claimed his life.

He died doing what he loved, what he excelled at and what he was loved for.

On Saturday afternoon, after being in a coma for several hours following his brutal Friday night bout with Baloyi, the hard-hitting pugilist succumbed and was pronounced dead.

His death represents the end of an era for Botswana boxing.

However, for his devastated family, it represents the end of an amazing man who had so much more to give.

According to Nkabiti’s younger brother, Moitshepi Nkabiti, the boxer was awaiting an operation when he died in a hospital in Vosloorus.

“Doctors said he had a swollen brain and would not perform any operation until the swelling improved,” revealed the young Nkabiti.

“He’ll be buried in Francistown on Saturday,” continued a distraught Moitshepi.

The 2007 Junior Welterweight All Africa Silver medalist was one of the most decorated sportsmen in the country.

He defeated Rasheed Lawal and Rachid Tariket in 2007 only to lose in the finals to Zambian Hastings Byalwa.

Regionally he has won everything there is to win. His dominance was finally rewarded in 2006 when he was voted Botswana National Sports Council (BNSC) Sportsperson and Sportsman of the year.

He also added Botswana Defence Force Boxer of the year to his long list of personal awards and immediately relocated to South Africa to pursue a professional career.

Nkabiti returned back home a hero, having won ten straight fights, all by knockout.

He’d later be frustrated by a lack of professional bouts in the country and so set his eyes on turning Botswana, especially his beloved Francistown, into a boxing city.

Last year ‘The Champ’ rekindled his diminishing dream of fighting for a title one more time.

Nkabiti’s lifelong burning desire to win a belt seemed to be fading disappointingly away as the Francistown-based pugilist entered the twilight years of his glittering career.

He went down south for a bout against South African Goodman Zanepi. The junior welterweight knocked down his East London-based (Eastern Cape) opponent just 29 seconds into the second round.

Nkabiti’s dominant display impressed officials from the fight’s organisers, XPromotions so much that they urged him to strive for a title bout.

This sparked further an already burning desire – a desire that would ultimately, tragically claim his life.

The raging fire in Nkabiti’s eyes when he spoke about fighting professionally was as obvious as it was extreme.

“I’m 34 years of age, but age has nothing to do with it. I have taken good care of myself, I don’t drink nor smoke and I still pack a punch,” Nkabiti once said in a 2015 exclusive interview with Voice Sports.

His biggest dream was to stage a sold out title fight in Francistown’s city centre.

Nkabiti, who would have turned 36 this year, was slowly realising that his time in the ring was running out – perhaps that was the reason he was up at 4am every morning for his road work; dedicated to the end!

Rest In Peace Legend.

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