Suspended veteran boxing referee Harry !Garus-oab is a bitter man and wants justice to prevail following his much-trumpeted physical scuffle with the incumbent chairman of the Namibia Professional Boxing and Wrestling Control Board, one Ellison Ndjambi Hijarunguru.
The unfortunate and embarrassing physical confrontation appears to have abbreviated the acrobatic former Battle Boys Football Club shotstopper’s 40-year long love affair with the art of trading leather, as a highly respected official.
In August 2015, Namibia played host to one of the biggest world title fights, featuring local boxer Paulus ‘The Rock’ Ambunda against Australian challenger Jason Cooper in the main bout. Okahandja-born !Garus-oab was officiating in one of the high profile undercard bouts at the Ramatex Hall that same evening.
Hijarunguru was vice chairman of the boxing control board at the time and happened to be on duty that particular evening. The outspoken self-proclaimed boxing guru apparently made it his sole beat to interfere in the referees’ designated assignments, but his ringside antics irritated !Garus-oab, as he was insisting that one of the fighters was not wearing a mouthpiece.
“I told him (Hijarunguru) that the boxer was equipped with the protected mouthpiece and even went as far as stopping the fight in the ninth round to ensure the mouthpiece was on,” he said afterwards.
However, an irate Hijarunguru charged at !Garus-oab upon completion of the bout, scolding the poor match official in public.
As much as !Garus-oab tried to explain that the mouthpiece was indeed on, the latter would have none of that and reportedly unleashed a volley of unprintable words.
“I shook his hand and asked him politely not to address me in such a rude and unprofessional manner in future, because I felt I deserved a bit more respect from him, since I’m much older than him.
“Despite my humble request, the brother aggressively took matters into his own hands and started clearing chairs out of the way between the two of us, murmuring in his native Otjiherero, which I’m conversant with – since I’m from the garden town where we grew up in a multi-cultural society.”
According to !Garus-oab, Hijarunguru behaved like a man possessed and out of the blue challenged him to step outside to settle the matter in township fashion (known colloquially as one-two’s) . !Garus-oab accepted the invitation.
Just as the two boxing officials disappeared out of sight, Hijarunguru, a former amateur boxer with a relatively patchy rèsumè in as many fights during his high school days, let fly with two quick jabs in succession, but little did the challenger know that he would meet his match in his streetwise opponent.
“I was shocked that this young man would physically attack me just like that. So, I was obliged to retaliate in self defense and responded by dropping him and sending him to slumber land,” !Garus-aob says.
After the embarrassing scuffle, both parties were summarily suspended, but somehow Hijarunguru wangled his way back into the system, leading to his appointment as the chairman of the boxing board.
“He (Hijarunguru) was economical with the truth during the proceedings, as he resorted to lies,” !Garus-aob maintains.
However, their suspensions were lifted with no sanctions applied against either party, but while his attacker is allowed to carry on with business as usual, !Garus-oab is still kicking his heels in frustration, as he has been grounded.
‘’I was never used as an official ever since that incident and now that he has resurfaced as the chairperson of the board, I’m not expecting to be reinstated as a referee by the new board under his stewardship, but I have made peace with that,” !Garus-aob lamented.
A clearly disappointed !Garus-oab says he has served local boxing with pride and distinction for over 40 years and is happy to have made a valuable contribution towards the growth of boxing in Namibia.
In his parting shot, the 60-year-old !Garus-oab said he believes Namibia is blessed with highly gifted boxers, but the country must ensure it has the right mix of leaders in place if it is to prevent the sport of boxing from becoming a delicacy for stray dogs.