“One of my friends recommended boxing to me and I was told it would be a great way to positively channel my energy. The rest is history.”
Domino’s discounts, late nights, and even later mornings are common pastimes associated with the peculiar creature known as the “university student”. But in the intriguing life of Derrick Osazemwinde, a masters student at Nottingham Trent University in the United Kingdom, no traces of these stereotypes can be found.
Derrick, aka ‘Del Boy’, is the British Universities & Colleges Sport (BUCS) Boxing Champion of 2016 and 2015 – and was the England Boxing Regional Champion in 2014. This year, the Sports Psychology student was selected to train with the England Boxing squad and was a contender to represent Nigeria at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. Excelling in both his education and boxing career, Derrick is a man with a bright future. But this could have turned out very differently.
“I started boxing when I was 15,” Derrick recalled. “At this stage of my life, I had been excluded from school over 14 times due to anger management issues and I was on the verge of permanent expulsion right before my GCSEs.”
Derrick went on to explain that it was sport that helped him through this: “Thankfully, one of my friends recommended boxing to me and I was told it would be a great way to positively channel my energy. The rest is history.”
“I fell in love with the sport and it helped immensely with my temperament, keeping me out of trouble whilst building my self-discipline.”
The self-discipline that Derrick picked up from boxing proved to be vital in his education. However, he needed to master this quality in order to maintain a balance between these two key aspects of his life.
“Due to training and competitions, I sleep a lot earlier than the average university student and I don’t get to see my family and friends as often as I would like to,” Derrick said. “This is probably one of the hardest sacrifices to stomach at times.”
He explained that despite being “a middleweight (75kg)”, he is constantly watching his weight. This means that he never orders takeaways, rarely goes to restaurants or eats his favourite snacks. He said: “This can be challenging because I love my food so much!”
Although balancing an amateur boxing career and a Masters degree might be too hectic for most people, Derrick’s list of roles and responsibilities continues. As a devout Christian, he’s the president of a university society called ‘RY’, a student-led Christian fellowship. He states that his faith has been fundamental throughout his career, particularly in the midst of setbacks.
“Without my faith, I don’t think I would still be boxing.”
He added: “I always pray before my fights, so I’m at peace and I’m rarely nervous. It’s helped me to overcome so many obstacles from missing competitions – due to factors out of my control, injuries and very controversial judging decisions. It keeps me going whenever I feel like giving up.”
These difficult moments have provided the fuel for Derrick’s future victories, with his first BUCS National title in 2015 proving to be a major highlight.
“It’s hard to really put it into words but I was basically in tears after the fight. I trained so hard prior to the tournament and it was the third time I entered it, but only the first time that I got to compete.”
In 2013, Derrick couldn’t attend due to his coach being unavailable and the following year his university representative forgot to submit his entrance form. As a result, they missed the deadline.
“The pain of my previous disappointments were a driving force in my preparation and I was probably in the best physical, mental and spiritual condition ever. It just demonstrates the truth in what my mum always says: ‘Delay is not Denial’.”
Having tasted both victory and setbacks in the past, Derrick is hoping that the lessons learnt from these experiences will propel him to new heights in the future: “Although I want to concentrate on finishing my Masters degree first, I want to gain more experience and compete in at least 50-60 amateur bouts. Hopefully, I’ll qualify for the 2018 Commonwealth and 2020 Olympic Games and then become a professional boxer.”
These might not be the typical dreams of a university student, but with Derrick’s well-roundedness, both inside and outside of the ring, it is only a matter of time before his dreams become reality.