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Mike Tyson lands knockout punch on Gaddafi-era boxing ban with Libyan visit

Mike Tyson lands knockout punch on Gaddafi-era boxing ban with Libyan visit

Mike Tyson will bring star power to a boxing event in Libya next week as the sport gets a major filip following a three-decade ban imposed by former leader, Muammar Gaddafi.

Seth Onyango, bird story agency

The starting buzzer is ringing for boxing’s long-awaited revival in North Africa as former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson set social media aflame with news that he would appear at a boxing event in Benghazi next Friday.

The expected presence of the iconic Tyson marks a watershed moment for the sport in Libya. Boxing was banned in the oil-rich nation for decades by the country’s former leader, Muammar Gaddafi.

Tyson, who is widely regarded as one of the greatest boxers of all time and a ‘knockout king’, shared the news on his Instagram page, posting:

“Hey boxing world, I’m pleased to announce that I’ll be in Benghazi, Libya, attending the big, big boxing event. It’s going to be so cool. It’ll be March the 1st and it’s going to be broadcast all over the world on Fight Nation.”

His announcement, which set the sports world abuzz, replicates his attendance at the hyped fight between Cameroonian heavy puncher Francis Ngannou and current reigning heavyweight champion Tyson Fury in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Combat sport streamer, Fight Nation has scheduled several matches for the ‘Benghazi boxing bonanza’ which is expected to draw large crowds in the country’s second most populous city.

Libya’s big comeback in the boxing world is part of a broader recovery following an Arab Spring that saw the ousting of its former leader in 2011.

According to the African Development Bank (AfDB), Libya will be Africa’s third fastest-growing economy this year, growing at a rate of 7.9%. The lender predicts that the growth rate will be buoyed by the hydrocarbon sector recovery and higher oil prices.

Tyson’s presence in Benghazi isn’t just a win for the country’s sports enthusiasts, it also casts a strategic spotlight on Libya’s broader narrative of rebirth and growth.

Tyson’s announcement to his 24.1 million followers on Instagram is good press for Libya’s recovery as well as its boxing scene, thanks to the amount of media he generates.

That positive attention is exactly what Libya needs as it bounces back from political and economic turmoil, with Tyson’s visit expected to showcase the country’s potential and resilience, as well as fans’ passion for the sport of boxing.

The ‘comeback spirit’ of the storied former boxer (and now trainer and investor) with his personal journey of ups and downs, fits well with the north African nation’s narrative. A key part of the ancient world and the scene of major World War 2 battles, Libya under Gadaffi had become a model, if repressive, example of what African capacity and ‘can-do’ spirit can achieve. The Arab Spring, while heralding a new, democratic era for the country, destroyed much of that. More recently a freak storm destroyed the city of Derna, leaving thousands dead and battered Libyan morale once more. As the country battles to rebuild, any positive attention generated by the upcoming Benghazi event is likely to resonate with the youth and boxing fans, alike.

Boxing was outlawed in Libya in 1976 as Gadaffi considered the sport a savage practice and a threat to his personality cult. Many promising boxers, such as Giubran Zugdani, who competed in the 1976 Olympics and met Muhammad Ali, had to abandon their careers or train in secret. Some fled the country.

After the 2011 revolution that toppled and killed Gaddafi, boxing was legalised again and the national federation was re-established by former fighters. Since then, Libyan boxers like Malik Zinad, a light heavyweight fighter, have experienced considerable success.

bird story agency