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Zimbabwe: Famous Boxing Ref “Gova” Dies @64

JOHN “Toro” Gova a standout among the most venerated proficient confining refs in Zimbabwe who likewise helped the late All-Africa heavyweight champion Proud “Kilimanjaro” Chinembiri to ascend to fame has died.He was 64.

Gova, who was brought up in Mbare, died at Harare Central Hospital in the early hours of yesterday after been conceded there last Monday, experiencing chest pain, as indicated by his daughter Martha.

Known in local boxing circles as “Toro” owing to his height, Gova handled a number of international professional boxing bouts here and neighbouring countries such as Zambia and South Africa in a career that covered both the pre and post-Independence era.

Gova, a former street fighter, was one of the most respected professional boxing referees in Zimbabwe with a career spanning more than 40 years.

Before his retirement in the mid-2000s, Gova was in March 2004 invited by the Zambian Boxing Board of Control to draft and conduct training programmes for its own referees, judges and ring officials.

Prior to that assignment, Gova’s skills were experienced by the Zambian Boxing Board on January 18, 2003 when he handled a cruiser weight title fight between champion Francis Garagata Zulu and Drago Kamanga at the International School of Lusaka.

Gova also had a diploma in refereeing and underwent lectures overseen by the World Boxing Council, the Australian Boxing Federation, the Commonwealth Boxing Council and the African Boxing Union.

Before becoming a referee, Gova started off as a flyweight club boxer, training at the then Stodart Boys Club in Mbare way back in 1962 before he swapped gloves for soccer boots for a couple of years, but was later to return to the sport that gave his heart the first cut.

 Gova was to also later spend the greater part of his life as a boxing referee. In 1981 he had the opportunity of training the legendary Proud “Kilimanjaro” Chinembiri with the assistance of the latter’s elder brother Punish at their home along Francis Joseph Street at National in Mbare.

Gova once reminisced to The Herald boxing correspondent, Gilbert Munetsi, on his experience of working with the “Man Mountain” Chinembiri.

Mkondiwa yesterday described Gova’s death as a big loss to the Zimbabwean boxing family.

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“It’s a very big loss to us because he was a very good referee. I got into boxing when he was already a referee. I travelled with him to Zambia in 2001 when they requested two officials from Zimbabwe and he was given a tough bout, it was a heavyweight bout.

“It’s a big loss because he guided most of our referees, he had the experience. He was a very good referee.

“I last met him at (Charles) Manyuchi’s fight (last year). I am devastated,” said Mkondiwa.

Gova is survived by his wife, three daughters and one son.

Mourners are gathered at his home at No. 8 Mlambo Street, National in Mbare and funeral arrangements were yet to be finalised by late last night.

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