The Sunday Mail
AFTER losing her mother to a murderer and killer-stepfather, WIBA Inter-continental welterweight boxing champion Monalisa ‘Madzimai’ Sibanda took to the boxing ring to find some solace and a way to hit back.
Engulfed by rage and acrimony, the Mabvuku born pugilist had to put on boxing gloves and forge her way into the punching ring. Sibanda’s mother, Lucia Muungani, was murdered in 1992.
Sibanda and her four siblings were left under the care of their grandmother, who had to bank on the benevolence of well-wishers to feed the family.
With anger flowing through her veins, Sibanda decided to become a boxer.
However, her grandmother could not allow that. She could foresee what was in the young girl’s heart.
Moreover, women were not allowed into the gym or the boxing ring by that time.
But, she stopped at nothing in her quest to avenge.
The anger she had for the killer stepfather kept beckoning her to jump into the fighting ring.
Being allies with former boxer Fernando ‘Chidzo’ Tom, the boxer would help her dress up like a man and sneak into the gym.
“For me boxing was a must, I had to do it. I was seeking revenge on my stepfather who murdered my mother. l also needed to protect my siblings.
“I would sneak out to go for training. My male friends would dress me up like one of them so that I would be allowed into the gym, that explains my haircuts,”
After dropping out of school at Form Two due to financial woes, Sibanda became a housemaid for two years.
While working at a home in Chadcombe, she remembers how she was almost abused by her employer’s son, thereby forcing her to abandon work and return to the ring.
Her first bout was in 1994 at a Crystal sweets sponsored tournament in Mabvuku. She had three fights against males on the same day and won two.
In 1996, her boxing friends took her for a Mau Mau tournament.
“I had to sneak out that night to go and fight. I had a memorable fight against a lady named Sauti, who came from Chitungwiza.
“Little did I know that the fight was playing live on television.
“I remember how I felt terrified when I learnt that my family had seen me fighting on television. I was not sure what would happen upon getting home.”
From the $10 earnings she got from the bout, she bought her grandmother a pair of tennis shoes and a body wrap at Mupedzanhamo flea market, Mbare.
Despite her fears, Sibanda got her grandmother’s blessings after that televised fight.
Memories of that incident made Sibanda teary.
“It was the special blessing that turned my life around. Somehow, it washed away my urge for revenge. Boxing became my passion and source of livelihood.
“From that day, my passion was unleashed and that is how I became known as Queen of the jungle.”
However, the community did not embrace her boxing passion as well as her preference for boyish clothes.
That was only cast away when she got married at 17.
ln the early 2000s, Sibanda took up a job as a female bouncer at the Zimbabwe Sun Casino and Mount Claire Casino.
Sibanda made her international debut in 2001 at Mbare Netball Complex, where she won a fight against Easter Phiri, a Zambian.
Zimbabwe’s first black female professional boxer is currently faced with a mammoth task of defending her title later this month.
It has not been rosy for Sibanda, who is still searching for a sponsor for the event.
Tom said Sibanda’s preparations for the title defence are on track despite sponsorship being a major concern.
“The tournament is scheduled for September 27, but sponsorship remains a challenge.
“I have known Sibanda since childhood, we used to sneak her into the gym and I understand her passion.
lf she does not find a messiah, her title is going just like that and I know what that will do to her.
“She is determined to defend her title and I have the confidence she will do just that,” Tom said.