Lovemore N & # 39; dou: The boxer who traded his gloves for legislation and justice


A sharp look Except for the gold Rolex wrapped around his left wrist, he knows it's almost time.

In a Hollywood-like swing, he picks up his jacket, slips into his left arm and then his right. The finishing touches to his immaculate black Armani suit. After smoothing his silver tie and adjusting his cuffs, he reaches down and picks up a brown suitcase containing the morning's files – a criminal arbitration hearing that begins at 10 a.m. sharp.

Moments later he turns and walks to the entrance to the Family Court of Australia. The click of his polished dress shoes on the gray marble floor echoes through the foyer as he prepares to enter.

Lovemore N & # 39; dou is no stranger to having a sea of ​​eyes fixed on him every time he goes to work. N & # 39; dou was a professional boxer for two decades. During his career he fought 64 times and held the IBF World Light Welterweight title once. Now the South African-born Australian is fighting for justice as a lawyer in South Sydney.

"They say lawyers are egomaniacal. But that's fine," N & # 39; dou tells ESPN as his upper lip begins to pucker and resemble a cheeky smile. "It's the same with boxing. You have to be confident and have that fighting spirit to win. You can't step in the ring and ever be doubtful – then you get knocked out. You can't step into the courtroom and have doubts or you will." lose your case. "

Once a professional boxer, Lovemore N & # 39; dou now runs a popular Sydney law firm. New Holland Publishers

Injustice was an important part of N & # 39; dou's life long before he became law. N & # 39; dou grew up in the small South African-Zimbabwean border town of Musina during the last years of apartheid and was exposed to horrific racism and abuse.

At the age of 16, he had been imprisoned, beaten and witnessed cold-blooded murder and torture. One night when he was home with his parents, two brothers and four sisters, the local police broke down the front door and dragged N & # 39; dou to the train station. She falsely accused him of having sexual relations with a white woman, a crime against a black man in South Africa at the time.

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"They broke my arm, broke a tooth, and then put a dog on me, and it almost bit my eyes off," he painfully recalls. “I actually have a scar over my right eye that people often think came from boxing, but it was from a dog. They almost killed me that night.

“When I was in the hospital before mistakenly going to jail for 90 days, one of the things I remember was that one day I wanted to become a lawyer and fight for justice. You know, I had to face all the atrocities that were committed ask and experience them. " Against my community, I really thought about going to law school. "

Frustration at the injustice soon spread to the everyday life of N & # 39; dou, who admits to being "a very angry" teenager struggling with poverty and despising the fact that "blacks like in our own country Wild were treated ".

Sport, especially soccer, was a market for him, but mostly he fought with the opposition. If someone played hard, they would turn and knock them out. If he didn't like what someone was saying, he turned and turned her down. Often times he chased another player around instead of the ball.

N & # 39; dou grew up in Musina, South Africa during apartheid. New Holland Publishers

"There was one particular incident where I knocked this kid out during a game and this security guard had to take me out," he says. "I remember him turning around and saying to me, 'Child, football is not for you. Every time I see you, you always get in trouble. Why don't you come and try to box?' 39;

"I thought I had nothing to lose so I left the next day. It turned out that this security guard was a boxing coach and he started teaching me how to fight. I used to think that being a boxer had to be angry, to fight. " But I was wrong. You had to be really calm. If you try to fix something when you are angry, you just make more mistakes. Fighting is scientific, you know. It's like playing chess. You have to think clearly, and you can't do that when you're angry.

"Fighting calmed me down and really changed me as a person."

In 1993, at the age of 21, N & # 39; dou made his professional debut against Enoch Khuzwayo in Johannesburg. He would dominate and fight 12 others in South Africa over the next 24 months. Since South Africa was excluded from international competition due to apartheid, N & # 39; dou and other fighters in the country were offered little opportunities and financial compensation at the time.

Everything changed in 1995 when he traveled to Australia to fight the undefeated Cliff Sarmardin in Newcastle.

"It was love at first sight," says N & # 39; dou, this time not even trying to hide his smile. "I fell in love with the country instantly and it has a lot to do with the welcome I received. People treated me as equals. They didn't see a B, not a man, they saw another person that was something I was not used to in South Africa. In my own country I am treated as a subspecies and here in Australia I am treated as an equal. "

Within six months of that trip, N & # 39; dou had emigrated to Australia and was able to kickstart his boxing career by seizing an opportunity that seemed like a pipe dream during his stay in South Africa. After 17 unbeaten fights within four years, N & # 39; dou rose to become the second greatest fighter on the World Boxing Council.

N & # 39; dou is fighting against the British Matthew Hatton for the IBO welterweight title. Dave Thompson / Getty Images

His loss to Sarit Saeknaew at Melbourne's Festival Hall in 2002 earned him the IBF Pan Pacific Light Welterweight title, his first major belt. He would defend that title three times before playing a grudge game against British Junior Witter in Los Angeles.

Despite suffering a unanimous defeat, N & # 39; dou returned to Australia and rebounded by defeating Naoufel Ben Rabah for the right to face the then light welterweight world title holder Ricky Hatton. When Hatton turned down the fight, the IBF stripped him of his title and gave it N & # 39; dou. After Kostya Tszyu, he was the second Australian in seven years to hold the belt.

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In the twilight years of his boxing career, N & # 39; dou fought Mexican superstar Canelo Alvarez and Briton Kell Brook. He also worked as Floyd Mayweather's primary sparring partner. But despite all the success, N & # 39; dou never forgot his roots and the pain and suffering he and his family had endured in Musina. He was determined to make a difference for the next generation.

It was in the summer of 2003 that N & # 39; dou – at the height of his boxing career – went to the University of Western Sydney as a law student. It was time to branch out.

"I had always believed in education and that power lies in the pen," says N & # 39; dou. "I also looked at life after boxing because you're not going to box forever and you need something to fall back on. There are so many sad stories in boxing that boxers either end up with brain damage or with no money, or they do end up committing crimes mainly because they have nothing else to do.

“I remember when I started I had no idea how to use a computer. I had to submit all of my assignments online and really didn't know what to do. So I had to bribe my daughter. If she helped I would take to the cinema or buy her something!

"When I went overseas [for a fight] I would take these great law books with me. When I was preparing for a fight overseas, I would train for hours and then go back to the hotel room and start studying. That became my life."

N & # 39; dou celebrates with all the belts he won during his stellar boxing career. New Holland Publishers

Today, the 49-year-old has seven university degrees and runs Lovemore Lawyers, a successful law firm in the heart of Rockdale, Sydney. It is a remarkable achievement for someone who was only offered the opportunity to attend school in South Africa at the age of 9.

He spends most of his work week advocating for those who cannot do this for themselves and represents hundreds of clients in civil and criminal law. It is a "fulfilling" job, given the obstacles he faced at such a young age, but for N & # 39; dou it is certainly not the end of the road.

"I want to go back to South Africa and get into politics," he says. "I'm really not happy with the current situation there. It's been 26 years since South Africa became a democratic system, but we still have people who live in huts and have to use the bucket refurbishment system. We still have a shortage of running water, domestic violence and women and children being raped, it's bad.

"I think if it wasn't for boxing I would probably be dead now or locked up over there in jail. Somebody has to change the way it is, and I think I could help make those changes in South Africa. That's the next chapter in my life."

Lovemore N & # 39; dous book & # 39; Tough Love & # 39; was published on November 23, 2020 and is available online and in bookshops.