Life in Kenya
Joined Kenya Breweries Club in Nairobi
While Seifu was traveling from Addis to Nairobi Mohammed Ali completed his jail sentence for his refusal to serve his military duty and was getting ready to fight George Forman in Zaire to get back his title as a heavy weight champion of the world. Seifu and his cousin had planned on driving from Nairobi to Zaire to see the fight, but due to financial limitations and other factors, they didn't make it. Instead they watched it live on telecast at 2:00 am at the Nairobi Convention Center and when Mohammad Ali declared his victory, the streets were filled with dancing, over joyed and jubilant fans including Mr. TIBO himself.Upon his arrival to Kenya one of the biggest corporations in Kenya, Kenya Breweries, showed much interest in Seifu and offered him a place at their gym.
With no hesitation Seifu signed with the Kenya Breweries Sports Club and was sent to boot camp to train as a heavy weight boxer. Through extensive training and self discipline he became an excellent boxer and won many fights in different parts of the country representing his Kenyan club in neighboring Uganda, Tanzania, and Zambia. During his stay in Kenya he won all of his fights and was recognized in 1975 as the year’s most admired boxer in East and Central Africa. Seifu received awards and recognition from President Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya, President Idi Amin of Uganda and President Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia. In 1975 with the club’s help, the Kenyan government attempted to grant Seifu Kenyan citizenship so that he could represent that nation at the 1976 Montreal Olympic if he chose to do so.
Invitation and 1976 Montreal Olympics
Seifu victories and successful triumphs in East and Central Africa were often published in the Ethiopian newspapers, Addis Zemen and Ethiopian Herald, and he was always regarded as a hero by his countrymen. At the height of his career in east and central Africa the 1976 Montreal Olympics was approaching and Seifu still had not decided whether he would represent Kenya in the upcoming summer Olympics. In early 1976 he received a call from the Ethiopian Embassy in Nairobi and was presented with an invitation from the Derge regime, the military ruler in Ethiopia at the time, to represent his country in the Montreal Olympics. With no hesitation he accepted the invitation. He informed his club and other concerned patrons of the Kenyan government and returned to Ethiopia to join the 1976 Olympic squad preparing for the 1976 Montreal Olympic. In the prior year a South African rugby team went to New Zealand for a match and all African countries, due to the South African apartheid policy, took a stand not to participate in the Summer Olympics if New Zealand was allowed to compete in the 1976 Montreal Olympic. Unfortunatly the Olympic committee granted permission to New Zealand to compete and the majority of the African Union countries including Ethiopia made good on their threat and boycotted the summer games. Many said Seifu was a medal hope, but he was unable to compete because of the boycott.
Boxing coach at Ethiopian sport Federation
After Seifu returned to Ethiopia the Derge regime gave him a job as an Ethiopian National boxing team head coach and became a respected employee of the Ethiopian Sports Federation.During his two year stay in Ethiopia, he trained many promising boxers and in 1977 during the East and Central African Championship competition held in Addis Ababa his team ended up winning five gold medals in different weight categories, which was a big achievement in his new coaching career.
Seifu was sent to Russia for advanced coach training and during his many exhibition fights in Russia the Russian Olympic boxing coach advised him to continue his boxing career as a fighter so that he can compete in the 1980 Moscow Olympics. After he finished his training in Russia, Seifu returned to Ethiopia with two roles, as a renowned boxer and successful trainer.
His time in Ethiopian prison
At the height of the Red Terror in Ethiopia (1977-1978) many young people lost their lives and many of them went to prison. Not too long after his return from Russia, Seifu was put in prison without charge and he spent three months in the Ethiopian prison. After his release, it was learned that he was sent to prison because someone informed the government that Seifu was a sympathizer of an opposing party which had a bad reputation with the regime. His co-workers at the Ethiopian Sports Federation, whom most of them were military boxers, had envied his success and decided to spread a rumor which led to his arrest. After Seifu left the country many of the same military boxers were killed by the Derge regime.Seifu knew he will be released one day and if he had the chance he had decided to escape out of Ethiopia.
In late 1977 at the height of the Russian political and social influnce on the Derge regim and the Ethiopian people both countries decided to have a friendly boxing match in Addis Ababa and the Ethiopian Boxing Federation was getting ready to choose 10 boxers in every division for the event. Luckily, Seifu got a break when a high ranked member of the government remembered and inquired about his where abouts and the official learned that Seifu was in prison. He gave an order for the prison officials to release Seifu from prison and to immediately enroll him in the training camp. During his stay in prison Seifu had continued his regular training routine and at the time of his release he was ready to fight any one in his weight division.During the Derge regime people were imprisoned and killed and the Ethiopian people didn’t benefit anything from Socialism.
From prison to heroism
During his three months stay in prison there was no charge brought against him and Seifu became a forgotten hero of his nation. Prior to his imprisonment, Seifu had honored his country, by representing his Ethiopia in the 1972 Munich Olympics. For the love of his country, he returned to Ethiopia from Kenya and represented his country in the 1976 Montreal Olympics, and he trained many Ethiopians to become successful boxers, but now he was forgotten in a rotten prison in Addis Ababa with no charge.While he was in prision Seifu maintained his mental and physical well being, strengthened his religious belief and spent most of his time in prison doing exercise, praying and reading books. During the friendly match, while all 9 boxers lost their match,Seifu was the only one who won the heavy weight division. His victory was a happy moment for the nation and the Ethiopian people.After Seifu won his fight he felt that socialism and its idology has ended in the boxing ring by defeating the super power Russian boxer in the second round with TKO in reality the Derge regime represive rule has continued for another 14 years. After his victory all the Ethiopian boxers were invited for reception at the residence of the renowned artist Afework Tekele and the derge reigme apologized for wrongly imprisoning him without any charge and Seifu was given his coaching job back.
Havana, Cuba trip and all African Championship in Tripoli, Libya
Seifu went back to his old job as a coach and was also representing his country in a heavy weight division. In 1978 the all African Games was taking way in Tripoli, Libya. A month before the game the Cuban government gave a scholarship to all Ethiopian boxers to train in Havana, Cuba. Seifu accompanied the team and went to Havana and after completing their stay the entire team was headed to Tripoli in transit through Montreal, Canada. After the plane landed for re-fueling in Montreal, the athletes were allowed to go to the terminal and relax for two hours. Even though there were as many Ethiopian security personnel as athletes on the plane, Seifu was determined not to continue his trip to Libya. During their fligt from Cuba to Montreal two of his boxer friends had the same intantion not to continue the flight and three of them hid in a restroom at the terminal. By the departure time it was realized that three passengers were not accounted for and the plane was delayed. The Montreal airport security guard went to the terminal looking for the missing passengers and found Seifu and his friends in a restroom. When Seifu and his friends realized that it was the security officer at the door they opened the locked door and handed him a written note regarding their seeking asylum and they were taken to the airport police station for interrogation. All three confirmed to the police officer that they were not willing to continue to Tripoli and the plane Capitan was informed to unload their luggages before continuing his flight. After further interrogation they collected their luggages and they were escorted to a hotel nearby where they stayed for one month. At the time Seifu and his friends were known to be the first Ethiopian athletes to ask a political asylum in other countries.
Derge Security guards raided his home
As soon as his defection was known to the Ethiopian government they sent security guards to his house in Addis Ababa and they threatened his mother and sister and demanded all his belongings. During the raid all his irreplaceable items including six trophies, two medals and photographs were taken by the security guard. Seifu hopes to have all the items taken are recovered and returned to him one day.