Suz is Zambian boxing's newest Member

First published in Sport

HE has never even visited Africa before, but boxer Suz Member could be set to become a star in Zambia after being offered an incredible five-fight contract in the country.

A relative unknown in England, Member is due to fly to Lusaka next week for a promotional tour including a number of press conferences and interviews with Zambian national television.

The opportunity of a lifetime came by virtue of a surprise email, with the 33-year-old admitting he is still not totally sure just how he was chosen to spearhead a campaign to promote boxing in the country.

“A few months ago I got an email out of the blue from the government in Zambia, just off the cuff, asking if I would like to go over there,” said Member, who has had six bouts at welterweight.

“I have been working as a firefighter for 11 years and about two years ago I did work in a scheme helping young people who had been on the wrong side of the police, in trouble.

“I was mentoring people. It was 16 weeks and you would take them to the army, to the fire station, to colleges.

“After the Zambian football team won the Africa Cup of Nations earlier this year they are looking to really promote different sports over there.

“They were speaking to people like UK Athletics and the Professional Footballers’ Assoc-iation as well.

“They had seen my background in mentoring people on my website and asked if I could go over there. I honestly don’t know if someone from England recommended me to them.

“But they want to promote young talent over there and I don’t think they wanted someone rich and famous, they wanted someone people could relate to and talk to.”

As part of the arrangement, Member has been offered a five-fight deal in the country, which has a population of around 13 million.

With his first bout lined up for September, he is set to find out his first opponent during his week-long promotional tour.

It may not be ‘The Rumble In the Jungle’ just yet, with Zambia’s status in the sport reflected in the fact that they will have no boxers at this summer’s Olympic Games in London.

But it was not a offer that he even considered turning down.

“It’s just an amazing oppor-tunity,” said Member, who is now based in Preston but used to live and train in Audley – previously working at Blackburn Fire Station.

“I haven’t even been to Africa before but there aren’t any boxers in Europe who have had the chance to go over there. I just see it as a privilege.

“When I go out there I am going to meet their Boxing Board of Control and they have said they are going to link me up with one of the best managers out there.

“I will be fighting on Zambia television and on African television.

“I’ve had six fights so far and five knockouts. I’m quite a big puncher, I’m not a very orthodox fighter.

“This will be a step up but if I win the fights I believe I will be in line for a title shot.”

For Member, it is an adventure he could never have foreseen.

But that fact alone is what he will use to inspire those who seek his guidance.

“I don’t see myself as an angel, I’ve had my scrapes,” said Member, whose conditioning coach is Farrell Kilbane – a former Preston and Cambridge footballer, and older brother of former Republic of Ireland international Kevin Kilbane.

“In my younger days I had a criminal record but I’ve been able to put that in the past.

“I have proven that you can turn your life around.

“And I didn’t box for five years because of a shoulder injury. I couldn’t train for two years.

“I had no money, no sponsors. I’ve had a few contractual issues with my manager too.

“There was a time when I was training on my own but I just made sure I did the right things and looked after myself.

“I believe in destiny, in fate.

“If I can do it anybody can.”

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