Harare: It's not really a place where you'd expect to come across the richest boxer of all time.
An event held on a dusty soccer field in Mabvuku, one of Zimbabwe’s oldest Black townships, saw a crowd enjoying free entertainment on Thursday thanks to a visit by boxing great Floyd Mayweather Jr., who is on what he calls the “Motherland Tour.”
Hundreds chanted “Mayweather mbinga … mbinga!" (Mayweather … the rich guy!) as the 46-year-old, who won world titles in five divisions with a 50-0 career record, hit a punching bag and performed other drills.
Earlier, after emerging from his private plane, Mayweather briefly addressed local reporters and made clear his delight at being in Africa.
“I’m back home!” he screamed. “I’m back where I belong, I’m truly back home!”
At Mabvuku, on the outskirts of the capital Harare, fans were treated to live music and exhibition bouts by local boxers, young and old.
Mayweather made his appearance four hours after the crowd had gathered.
People sang and danced while watching proceedings which were on a big screen. The cheers grew louder when a smiling Mayweather, who was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame last year, went on stage for a 15-minute drill.
Mayweather’s visit came after a previous meeting with Pedzisayi “Scott” Sakupwanya, a gold dealer who is vying for a parliamentary seat in Mabvuku as a candidate for the ruling ZANU-PF party, which isn’t popular in urban areas of the country. Two years ago after bumping into Mayweather, Sakupwanya told Zimbabweans that he would bring the American fighter to Zimbabwe.
“It shows that everything else I’ve promised you, I’ll fulfill,” he told the crowd.
Organizers have previously announced that Mayweather — who they said will help to build schools and hospitals in the area — will also visit South Africa during his tour.
Mayweather also met with Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa in Harare.
Alfonso Zvenyika, a former Commonwealth boxing champion, was part of the special day in Mabvuku.
“At my peak, I thought boxing would bring me to where Mayweather is now, where I didn’t have to worry about my next meal, or school fees for my children,” Zvenyika told The Associated Press.
“But it didn’t go according to plan. Today, I can only be a curtain-raiser for Floyd. I’m not jealous of him, he is a great fighter. I’m only honored to be fighting in the same ring that he is showcasing his skills, just honored to be invited here for Floyd’s visit to our country. I’m part of history.”