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Young boxer fighting for his life

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At the start of the year, one of Botswana’s brightest young boxers, Tefo Maitewa harboured dreams of qualifying for the Olympics.

Seven months later and the 22-year-old is lying in a hospital bed fighting for his life.

Maitewa has been in a comma since the end of June, when he underwent surgery to remove a tumour on his brain.

It is uncertain whether he will ever regain consciousness again.

According to Botswana Boxing Association (BOBA) President, Dr Thato Patlakwe, the talented athlete first started complaining of headaches back in January.

“He went for an MRI scan before leaving for the Olympic Qualifiers in Senegal, which were held in March,” explained Patlakwe, in an exclusive interview with Voice Sport this week.

Upon returning to Botswana, Maitewa, who was the reigning national champion in his weight category (U/56kg), went into a training camp set up specifically for the country’s Olympic hopefuls.

The camp was eventually disbanded in early April due to Covid-19. It was then that the Molepolole Boxing Club member’s headaches returned with renewed vengeance.

“Maitewa’s mother called and said he had a terrible headache. I called our national team doctor Maswabi to assist. Maitewa did another scan and found out he has a glioma tumour. The Neurosurgeon said the tumour has grown and is likely to compress the brain.

“He went for the operation at the end of June and has been admitted at Gaborone Private Hospital Intensive Care Unit ever since,” revealed Patlakwe, adding the Botswana National Olympic Committee, Botswana National Sports Commission and BOBA, through the Ministry of Sport, sponsored the operation.

“Our psychologist is also assisting the family with counselling. My worry was, is it boxing related? The doctors ruled that out and explained any person can have that disease. We are hopeful he will recover,” said Patlakwe, reluctantly conceding that Maitewa’s boxing career is over.

“Brain cancer is complicated and sensitive so this will be the end of the talented boxer’s career. It is heartbreaking!”

For Maitewa’s family, the fact that the young southpaw will never compete in the ring again is the least of their concerns; they are just hoping against hope that he wins what is the biggest fight of his life.

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