A street vendor turned hairdresser at the dawn of boxing history

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the herald

Tadious Manyepo –Sports journalist

FOR Kudakwashe Chiwandire’s father, Morris, recent events have all been surreal.

“It’s like I had a dream,” he exclaimed. But reality has set in and tonight he will be live streaming as his eldest writes her own piece of history. Kudakwashe (or Kuda) Chiwandire takes on Zambian Catherine Phiri in the World Boxing Council (WBC) interim bantamweight title showdown at the New Lusaka Government Complex tonight.

She is the first Zimbabwean female boxer to compete for the most revered and highest ranked crown in the world. For good measure, only her opponent won this belt among the lot of female boxers in Africa. And her father, Morris, has every reason to celebrate, hours before he can witness history written in his own blood. The difficult conditions, he couldn’t help himself, in which he raised Kuda, the misfortunes in which she fell which caused her not to pass her ordinary level exams and all kinds make him a proud father when he remembers bowing his head.

“Kudakwashe Memory Chiwandire was born on February 4, 1996 in Mbare. This is where we used to stay back then.

“We raised her in Highfield where she attended her primary school in Nyandoro before moving to Mukai High School until she was in second grade.

“Things were never rosy for me. We were surviving day to day and she was helping us with our only source of income – street vending.

“After school she would become our main person at the sales stand and she was very honest with the money. That’s how we raised her and her siblings,” Morris said. And Kuda was a sportswoman who loved football a lot with her talent which won her a scholarship for Lord Malvern High School, showing up at ACES Youth Soccer Academy before enrolling, thanks to her talent, in the Vinona secondary school.

“By then she was already playing for one of the giants of women’s football, Cyclone Queens, and she was destined for greatness given the work ethic she brought into the game.”

But somehow, she wouldn’t finish her studies at Vainona.

“That’s when she got pregnant. I’m saying this so that other girls who might fall into the same predicament can still rise from the disappointment and achieve their dreams.

“It was hard for us as parents to accept but look, she’s our daughter and we had to support her. She returned to the game after she gave birth and we were so supportive,” Morris said. A talented and quick winger, who rubbed shoulders with former Mighty Warriors player Nyasha Munemo while playing for Cyclone Queens, Kuda decided to quit the game after failing in the Mighty Warriors team.

“It was a huge disappointment for me to be forgotten for the national team. Growing up, all I wanted was to represent my country at some point in my life.

“But after being overlooked, I just decided to hang up my boots and focus on the individual sport,” Kuda said.

It was then that she decided to venture into karate where she would distinguish herself, winning gold medals in regional tournaments, her greatest recognition being being voted second runner-up in the ‘Annual National Sports Awards (ANSA) Sports Woman of the Year in 2017.

This is how she met her current boxing trainer/manager, Clyde Musonda.

Meanwhile, Kuda, who is now a mother of three, had turned into a professional hairdresser – her main source of income until now. Her soft-spoken mother, Edina (née Makunya), said she had to be her own wife, and the family decided to support her as a hairdresser as well.

“While selling our wares at the sales stalls, Kuda always showed an interest in hairdressing. We then decided to help him obtain certain qualifications while continuing to play sports,” she said.

“She was able to help us as a family and help her own children out of this profession.”

But as soon as she met Musonda, Kuda’s attention shifted.

“I convinced her to consider boxing. At first she didn’t like the idea,” Musonda said.

“But I want to thank her parents who advised her to try it. I was the one who started training her basic boxing. She was surprisingly very quick to grasp the concepts, the combinations and in no time , she made waves at various amateur tournaments.

“I then decided to turn her into a professional around 2018-2019.” Kuda would have a stint at Charles Manyuchi Boxing Academy under which she became WIBA champion before retracing her footsteps at Musonda’s stable, Deltaforce.

“I have been through a lot in my life, the hardships, the struggles, everything. I am now facing history and I have to change my whole story in this fight against Catherine Phiri in her own garden. My family, my friends, my neighbors, my fans, my compatriots, everyone should be proud of me. My story has to change on Saturday (tonight),” Kuda said.

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