The Sunday Mail
MAYBE the old man did indeed see the chariots of heaven and their horsemen when we interviewed him just 93 days before he died.
Maybe Langton “Schoolboy” Tinago, who will be buried in Gweru today, had a hunch that a life that saw him living in the razzmatazz lane at his prime and dying almost pauper was coming to end.
Of all the things the former Commonwealth boxing champion could have talked about during that interview he chose to dwell on life after he died.
“I don’t want people to say good things about me when I am dead, let them come and say haa Mudhara wanga wakaipa (old man who had game),” said a frail looking Tinago.
He had that on repeat so much that it was difficult to escape the dark narrative.
The initial brief was to have Tinago reminisce about his Commonwealth glory days but the boxing legend took the story somewhere else.
And we had to follow the story.
“There are times when boxing icon Langton “Schoolboy” Tinago sounds like a man who can see the sun setting on his life, times when he speaks about what he does not want to see happening at his funeral,” reads the intro to the story headlined The Emotions of Schoolboy and published on these pages on April 22, 2018.
Now as people stampede to heap praises on the late Tinago it’ easy to get the pulse of what the late boxing icon was talking about back in April.
Tinago described our society as hypocritical and we seem to be living up to that description as we mourn the passing on of a master of the sweet science.
“Right now I feel neglected, wondering where all those people who used to fill up Rufaro Stadium just to watch me fight are when I am struggling like this,” revealed Tinago. Oh well those people are here Schoolboy!
They are here old man, doing the very thing you did not what them to do after God has taken you to another weight division – eulogizing nonstop.
As they do so they are pretending not to have been aware of the hard times you had fallen on.
They are pretending not to have been aware that away from the limelight — in Gweru’s Mambo suburb — life was giving you a series of jabs and uppercuts until the day you died.
Show us a sign Schoolboy, show us a sign Mudhara, how do we do with these people?
But if you cannot show us a sign we might as well use your life as a compass.
We might as well use your life to counsel future stars on the dangers of failing to make hay while the sun is shining.
I know you felt neglected by a nation you took so many punches for but did you do your best with the “little” you got during your prime?
In his book The Bengu Years Dave Wellings, the man who once coached you, tells us what we all know — that you were one fine boxer, a pugilist who could have been world champion had it not been for Rhodesia’s pariah state status.
Wellings reveals that he met you when you were 30 but you still managed to bowl him over with your conditioning and precise punching.
“My concerns about his age and fitness were soon dispelled; he would run 25 kilometres early each morning and return with a frosting of white around his tracksuit collar: it was perspiration dried to salt by the African sun.
“He would pound the heavy punch bag like an automation for an hour and then return in the cool of the evening for sparring session, he had superb defensive reactions and a laser-like left jab — but that was all.
“I used to joke that his right cross was like his birthday party, he only threw it once a year, combination punches were just rare I doubt he had ever thrown an uppercut,” Wellings writes.
While you claimed that you never got any meaningful sweets for your sweat my dear Schoolboy this guy Wellings suggest that you were “well paid, a snappy dresser and a hot pants man.”
Your former coach adds that Hepworth suits endorsed you.
“. . .Not only was he well-paid but he kept the modelled suits,” writes Wellings.
But we cannot dwell much on what could have been Mudhara all we can do is celebrate your life while watching these people make you turn in your grave.
One hopes that you are having it sunnier that side, dancing like you did on the night Wellings hunted for you deep in the night with the invite to fight for a Commonwealth title bout in his hands.
“After several months of lobbying, the invite finally came through but I could not locate Tinago at his flat and found him dancing the night away to the deafening sounds of Congolese music at then ‘notorious’ Queens Hotel,” discloses Wellings.
What a fight Schoolboy, what a fight.
The boxing stable in heaven is richer with you in its locker room.