TRCH Priscilla

Pastor Derrick Osaze Mixes Preaching With Punching As A Professional Boxer

1 March 19 words: Joanna Mwansa

25-year-old Derrick Osaze made his first appearance in the professional world of boxing a year ago and has won all six of his fights since. But punching isn’t the only thing he fills his time with: he’s a minister and assistant youth pastor at his local church, and part of the board of trustees down at Hyson Green Youth Club...

Growing up in Peckham, fifteen-year-old Derrick took up boxing as a way to stay out of trouble. While contact sports on the surface can seem quite violent, it’s no news that they help youngsters release aggression; for Derrick, having been excluded from school on several occasions, boxing was a way for him to take control of his anger. It became a hobby, then a passion and a lifestyle.

“The first question my parents asked was ‘What about your face?’” says Derrick. “They were worried I’d end up getting into fights, but it’s quite the opposite. People in boxing are calmer because of discipline.” Derrick’s family, who originate from Nigeria, appreciate what the sport has done for him, and attend his fights regularly, despite initial reservations. “They’ve come to like it, and are probably my biggest supporters. Boxing has made me a better person,” Derrick says.

Derrick’s roles of professional boxer and church minister might appear to be polar opposites. While many have questioned his apparent double life, he maintains that the two activities are quite closely interlinked: “It’s really not a double life,” he says. “It’s just about maintaining some balance between the two and staying organised.

Derrick’s journey to becoming a minister began when he became the president of Radical Youth, a campus-based Christian fellowship group at Nottingham Trent University with several branches across the UK. It was during his time at university that he became involved with his church, God’s Vineyard Ministries (GVC Nottingham), and was eventually ordained as a Minister in March last year. “I do it willingly, regardless of whether I receive anything in return,” says Derrick. “There’s no obligation for me. It’s a way of life, and my way of being thankful.”

Jimmy Gill, Derrick’s boxing manager, coined him as “The Punching Preacher”. Initially conflicted about the connotations, Derrick tried to shake off the nickname, but eventually it stuck. “Even my parents call me that now,” he says. “I guess it makes sense. I do punch and I do preach, it’s not a lie. As a boxer, people tell me ‘You go in the ring to hurt people’ but boxing is a martial art. The aim is not to seriously injure your opponent. At the end of the day, it’s a competition.”

Before going professional, Derrick was an amateur boxer for eight years, bagging a couple of national titles and getting called up to try out for the Nigerian National Boxing team for the Rio 2016 Olympics. Unfortunately he was forced to turn down the offer due to an injury. “My amateur period was really good as it prepared me to be a professional,” says Derrick. “I dealt with a lot of injuries and setbacks, but I believe everything happens for a reason.” He’s quick to cite a highlight from his professional journey, where a recent fight in Bristol against tough opponent Liam Hunt saw Derrick win every round. “Every athlete gets nervous, but I’ve got to a point where I know how to handle it,” he says.

To stay in top form, Derrick – who’s currently a middleweight boxer – must maintain an intense training routine. He trains about six times a week: hitting the gym, jogging and working out at home. He also takes pride in his balanced meal plans. “I train in the kitchen as well as in the gym; you’ve got to make sure your diet is on point to maximize your performance. If you put diesel in a petrol car, it’s not going to work,” says Derrick. “Another way I keep up with my training is with a lot of prayer. That’s key. Without that in a sport like this, you’d go crazy.”

Derrick’s work with young people doesn’t end at the church. Until recently, he was a youth mentor with Derbyshire Council, helping young people who’ve been kicked out of school; something he’s familiar with having been excluded several times himself. Currently, he’s part of the board of trustees at Hyson Green Youth Club. “I’m passionate about coming up with new, practical methods to help young people and run the youth club,” says Derrick.

At DCT (Dreams Come True) Boxing Academy, down at the youth club, The Punching Preacher acts as a coach. “It’s basically our anti-knife campaign: we don’t carry knives, we wear gloves,” says Derrick. “We’re helping these kids to have something to do and keep them off the streets. It’s been going really well.”

Derrick still has many more aspirations for the future; namely, to get world titles under his belt in his boxing career while keeping his indomitable spirit active. He hopes to work with young people on a national scale by introducing new youth programmes and enabling participants to become the best version of themselves. “I would say I had a lot of issues with controlling my anger as a young child,” says Derrick. “I got into a lot of trouble playing different sports, and when someone recommended boxing, it helped me gain self-discipline. There are many challenges out there, but I believe in the future generation.”

DCT Boxing Academy runs at Hyson Green Youth Club on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 5pm-6pm, for people of all abilities between the ages of six and seventeen.

DCT Boxing Academy website

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