Life in Ethiopia
Seifu Makonnen was born on April 11, 1953 in Aleltu, Shoa province of Ethiopia and moved to Addis Ababa at a very young age. He attended his elementary and high school education at Beyene Merid and Menelik II Secondary schools in Addis Abeba, respectively. At a young age Seifu became a very healthy child with a big body. One day his Amharic teacher in class because of his heavy set body decided to call him TIBO and all his classmates from that day onwards called him SEIFU TIBO ( although his legal name is Seifu Makonnen). Until now he is more recognized by his nickname rather than his legal name. From childhood Seifu was inclined to engage in outdoor activities and sports, especially soccer, body building and boxing.
Arat Kilo YMCA
At age thirteen, Seifu joined the Arat Kilo Y.M.C.A in Addis Ababa as a member and developed his mind and physical stature through the different programs offered at the Arat Kilo Y.M.C.A. Club. At age fourteen, Seifu decided to shape up his big body. He joined his friends to become a body builder and he was determined to do his utmost to become the best. After two years of disciplined work he became one of the well known body builders in Addis Ababa and was recognized beyond the Arat Kilo Y.M.C.A.
Relatively speaking, in a short period of time, he became a star and with a celebrity like status he used to be invited to all private parties and clubs in the city. His stature and strong persona gave every social gathering the mantel of peacefulness and no invitee ever dared to disrupt a party when Tibo was present. Although Seifu enjoyed going out to parties often he was also conscious of his health and his well being.He never abused his body and avoided drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes and taking drugs.
Trip to Berlin and 1972 Munich Olympic
As a body builder Seifu already showed athletic prowess and in 1971 inspired by Mohammed Ali, he became a boxer. An American boxing coach Edward Simon at the Y.M.C.A invited him to join his class to be trained as a boxer. After some thought, Seifu accepted the offer and started to train to become a boxer. He trained for four months with the Ethiopian Boxing Federation and the German Sports Ministry gave him a scholarship and he went to Berlin for two months for further training. While in Germany, he fought 10 exhibition fights and finished a course of studies in Exercise Science.
He received a certificate from the German Sport Ministry and became qualified to represent his country in the 1972 Munich Olympic. At the 1972 Summer Olympics, his first two opponents were no-shows, he won his third fight against George Ouma of Uganda, but he lost his fourth bout to Herald Skog of Norway on points. Seifu ended in an eight-way tie for ninth place out of 28 fighters in the Olympic finals. Seifu became numbered among the many Ethiopian athletes, including the 1968 Mexico Marathon gold medal and 10,000 silver medal winner Mamo Wolde and the 1980 Moscow Olympic gold medal winner in the 10,000 and 5,000 meter, Miruth Yiftr who represented Ethiopia in the 1972 Munich Olympic.While he was in Munich he witnessed the horrifying massacre committed on the Israeli athletes at the Olympic Village. After he returning to Ethiopia he was recognized by Emperor Haile Sellase and he was awarded a medal..
East and Central African Championship
In 1973 the East and Central African Championship was held in Addis Ababa at the Ambassador Theatre and Seifu participated in his weight division representing his country. In the event Seifu received a gold medal for Ethiopia for defeating his two opponents, a Kenyan and a Ugandan boxer. It gave him a well-deserved recognition among the East and Central African nations.
The 1972 Munich Olympic squad including in the picture Seifu, Mamo Wolde, Miruth Yiftr, Ato Yedenekachew Tessma, Ato Desta Girmma and others.
1974 Left Ethiopia for neighboring Kenya
At the prime of his boxing career in 1974 the military coup d’état took place in Ethiopia. With the country in disarray and the Emperor overthrown there was no opportunity for him to progress in his profession if he resided in his native land. Through the connections of one of his cousins who lived in Kenya at the time, arrangements were made for him to come to Nairobi, Kenya. Later that year he applied for a passport and left Addis Ababa, traveling by bus to Moyale, town located on the border of Ethiopia and Kenya. He crossed the border safely and finally reached Nairobi, Kenya, in August 1974.