HARARE – While at school she was pugnacious and an unwilling marathon runner, today, thanks to Zimbabwe’s long-distance runner Collen Makaza’s persistence — Fortunate Chidzivo — is at home in both boxing and long-distance running.
The 30-year-old, like a few before her, got into the sport by accident rather than by design after being encouraged by Makaza to abandon boxing.
Chidzivo told the Daily News on Sunday that her current status as both a boxer and long-distance runner came about when fate linked her to the two apparently unrelated disciplines when she met Makaza at the popular Harare kopje doing their hill sessions.
But what did Makaza see in Chidzivo that made him convince her to exchange the boxing ring for athletics?
“I was training at Harare kopje with other athletes and she too was doing her endurance training,” Makaza told the Daily News on Sunday.
“Then we convinced her with other athletes to run one local race which she did and came out tops. Since then she has never looked back and appears destined for greatness.”
For Chidzivo, though, running was never something she fancied.
“Running was not my thing even at school. I wanted to be a boxer, and I thought I was good at it. So it was never difficult for me to choose which sport I wanted to pursue,” she said.
“When I took boxing seriously, and part of being a boxer is that you must run. There’s no way around it. I started run-walking and worked my way up. Fighters do a lot of running. The constant motion prepares you for being in the ring.
“Running also strengthens your legs. Punching power comes from your lower body. A lot of times when people get tired, its their legs that start to go weak, so running just really strengthens your full body. It strengthens your heart muscles.”
Chidzivo would go on to excel in the bantamweight and between 2010 and 2012 she was the holder of all the titles of Champions of Champions in the country.
In 2012, Chidzivo went on to represent the country in Botswana at the Africa Boxing Cup where she scooped silver medal before eventually turning professional in the same year.
“For me representing my country and bringing home a silver medal was a huge achievement on its own,” she said.
“My dream was fulfilled when I turned professional after beating Malawi boxer Agnes Mtunikanena, who was a WBF champion. It was a WBC non-title bout and I beat her over six rounds. For me, it was the beginning of greater things to come.”
But unfortunately for Chidzivo, she struggled to get any meaningful fights due to lack of proper management as well as limited resources which left her to resort to training only.
For someone who was convinced that her destiny lies in the boxing ring, Chidzivo changed her perception when she was invited by Makaza to train with him.
“I trained with Makaza but at first I was not sure if I was really prepared to go into track,” Chidzivo said.
“In 2015, I went to South Africa to finalise contracts of my non-title fight — then Makaza convinced me to enter the Cape Town Marathon. When I returned from South Africa I had to prepare for the race at the same time preparing for my bout.
“I then returned to fight at the start of last year and I lost on split points over six rounds.”
The defeat appeared to have spurred Chidzivo to think again about the path she wanted to pursue.
“When I returned from South Africa, I started to train hard for the Cape Town Marathon with the help of Makaza and other athletes,” she said.
Chidzivo was back in South Africa late last year for the race where she finished sixth after clocking 2hrs 41mins 56sec to surprise herself after qualifying for the World Championships without even knowing.
Chidzivo — who has been training in China, Ethiopia and Malaysia as she gears up for the important episode in her life returned home recently ahead of her departure for London in time for the race on August 8.
And to her admission, running appears to have charmed her more than boxing.
“For now I am focusing more on athletics. I am yet to decide on whether I should concentrate on one sport. For now I am still pursuing both but because I have a race coming next week my focus has been on that,” she said.
But how does Chidzivo, a single mother of two children balance between her career and her family?
“I have to admit that juggling the two is not easy. It’s very difficult but I thank God I have a loving mother, who in my absence takes care of my children,” she said.
National Athletics Association of Zimbabwe (Naaz) president Tendai Tagara has tipped Chidzivo to succeed in athletics and has urged her to dump boxing and concentrate on her newly-found love.
“She has proved that she is a top runner, there is no doubt about that,” said Tagara.
“It takes something special for someone who has not been in this terrain to qualify for the World Championships on first try. Not many people can achieve this. There are some athletes who have been trying without success for years to qualify for this renowned event.
“I hope she will quickly realise that her potential is in athletics. As Naaz we will be there to support her and other athletes.”