Life in North America

Canada

1978 defected to Canada granted a political asylum

Seifu loved his country his family and his many friends he left behind but because of the uncertain future in his native land and due to fear for his life, he was forced to stay in Canada in1979. Seifu and his two friend lived in one of the Montreal hotels at the expense of the Canadian government, until their paperwork was completed and finally they were granted a political asylum. They were given a work permit and started working to suppot themselves. During his short stay in Canada Seifu had the opportunity to be part of the movie Running and appeared with Michael Douglas as an American Marathon runner. Seifu had a hard time adjusting to the climate in Montreal and he consulted with his cousin who resided in Los Angeles and finally he joined him in 1979.

Los Angeles

Robbed and survived

Few weeks after Seifu arrived in Los Angeles his first encounter is shocking and unforgettable. As he was waiting for someone to help him start his boxing carrier in America he wanted to work to support himself and he went on getting a temporary work permit. He found a job as a gas station attendant and was employed at the world gas station in West Los Angeles. One afternoon as Seifu was training a new cashier a young looking African American robber entered the kiosk and demanded money by pointing his gun towards Seifu. Both Seifu and the young trainee was shocked and didn’t know what to do and they hesitated, at this time the gunman shot towards Seifu but the bullet missed him and hit the young trainee in his stomach and the gunman helped himself at the cash register and instantly fled on foot on one direction. As the young trainee lying on the ground bleeding Seifu called an ambulance and a police and the young trainee was taken to the nearby hospital and luckily he survived after being attended in the hospital for two weeks. At the time of the robbery a mail man was passing around the area and has seen the person who committed the robbery and he knew the guy in the neighborhood and he reported to the police. The person who committed the robbery worked at the nearby safe way store as a security guard and he used his work gun to committee the crime. He was arrested and in the later day Seifu testified and the robber was convicted. After many years Seifu had another less dramatic incident while he was in a taxi business but he with stand all the adversities and he survived with the grace of God and with the strength of his faith.

The first Ethiopian professional boxer in America

Since he arrived in America Seifu’s ambition was to pursue his career as a professional boxer and he was looking for a boxing manager and promoters who could jump start his career. Through his cousin’s connections he found a Beverly Hills man who was willing to manage and promote his boxing career. Immediately he was assigned a trainer and a training club and started training for his first fight. His training club was the famous Main Street Gym in downtown Los Angeles where many famous world champion boxers trained and he met many of them, including Danny Lopez, fly weight division, Roberto Duran, Walter weight division, and Ken Norton, Heavy weight division. After three months of intensive training at the Main Street Gym, his first professional fight was scheduled to be held in February 1980 in Pico Rivera. He made his professional fight debut by fighting a 6’4” American boxer and he lost only by few points. He fought two more professional fights and, after many exhibition fights, he decided to retire from boxing in 1981.

Los Angeles managing a taxi cab business

Although Seifu had an ambition to go back to school and continue his education, the circumstances at the time didn’t allow him to do as he planned. Instead he became self-employed in the transportation business and bought a cab. Seifu managed his cab business in Los Angeles city and during this time he had two children, a boy and a girl. After his boxing career, Seifu joined the La Star soccer team in Los Angeles and was keeping himself in shape at all times.

Los Angeles Ethiopian community involvement

Besides being a member of different Los Angeles soccer teams at different times, Seifu has played for the teams and contributed financial assistance. For the love of his people and the game of soccer he often traveled to many cities to attend the annual Ethiopian Soccer Federation in North America (ESFNA) tournament celebration.

pic of seifu
1984 with the LA Star team at the UCLA soccer field which was the teams training field for a long time

He witnessed the growth of the ESFNA from its infancy to become the biggest annual gathering of the Ethiopian community anywhere outside Ethiopia. He commends all those volunteers who served ESFNA at different times, donating their money and valuable times to create this annual social gathering for the Ethiopian community in North America. In the year 2000 he traveled to his native land for the first time since he left Ethiopia in 1978. His trip to Ethiopia was mainly initiated to watch the friendly matches between the Ethiopian National soccer team and team from the United States organized by the famous former Ethiopian National team player and a professional soccer player Feseha Wolde Emmanul. Seifu was passionate about the Ethiopian heroes and whenever they came to Los Angeles he has always made them feel at home by taking his time to drive them around the city. Mamo Wolde, Geremew Denboba and Alemayhu Esthete were some of the Ethiopian heroes he entertained while he lived in Los Angeles City.

1984 with the LA Star team at the UCLA soccer field which was the teams training field for a long time. During 1984 famine in Ethiopia Seifu has contributed his time and money for the effort to help his people in Ethiopia. He was one of the few notable of the Ethiopian community who attended the fundraising event organized by the wife of Sammy Davis Jr. where the world well known Ethiopian artist Afework Tekele was a keynote speaker.

His other community contribution is his involvement in the Ethiopian church affair. Seifu is one of the first members who co-founded the Dengel Mariam Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Compton, California and served as member of the Board of Directors from 1986 to 1993.

pic of seifu
Co-founder and one of the board of directors of Dengel Mariam Church in Los Angeles. He served from 1986 to 1993

During 1984 famine in Ethiopia Seifu has contributed his time and money for the effort to help his people in Ethiopia. He was one of the few notable of the Ethiopian community who attended the fundraising event organized by the wife of Sammy Davis Jr. where the world well known Ethiopian artist Afework Tekele was a keynote speaker.

pic of seifu
1984 attended a fundraising dinner hosted by the wife of Sammy Davis Jr. The guest speaker of the event celebrated Ethiopian artist Afework Tekele by his side.

Certified personal trainer

In 1998 he became a certified personal trainer and trained people at the Gold Gym in Arlington, VA, Bally’s Total fitness in Alexandria, VA and Sports Bollestone Mall. During his stay in Washington DC as a personal trainer, he trained many high profile individuals, including US senators and well known business people. In his community around Washington DC and surrounding cities he always preached about the importance of doing exercise and distributed flyers promoting his programs and many have used his service and he tried to mobilize the community to establish a health center.

pic of seifu
During one of his trainning session with his clientele at the GYM
pic of seifu
Seifu founder of Abebe Bekila 8K Marathon and his race director Jay Jacob Wind in Virginia at the 50th anniversary of Abebe win in the Rome Olympic in 1960

Founder of Abebe Bikila Day.

Seifu has two sport heroes in his life whom he admired greatly. They are the former world heavy weight champion Mohammed Ali and the two time Olympic Marathon gold medal recipient Abebe Bikila. He met both his heroes in person at different time. Seifu recalls 50 years ago his mother took him to Arat Kilo to welcome the first Ethiopian Olympic gold medalist Abebe Bikila when he came back from Rome Olympics.Later in 1972 Seifu met Abebe Bikila in person when Abebe came as a guest of honor to the Munich Olympic in Germany. By then Abebe Bikila was in a wheel chair and he was unable to walk due to his car accident injury which left him a paraplegict. In 1976 Seifu was one of the 70,000 people who escorted Abebe Bikila’s body to his grave at the Saint Joseph Church in Addis Ababa. In 2006, Seifu co-directed Abebe Bikila Day 8K and Half Marathon in Alexandria, VA. The annual race has since grown to become Abebe Bikila Day International Peace Half Marathon, held three times in Alexandria in 2006, 2007, and 2008, and then in Washington DC in 2010. The race has raised more than $20,000 for various charities, including Ethiopian Community Development Council, the partners of Marathon Charity Cooperation, and this year, High Cloud Foundation. Despite his illness in September 2010 he traveled to Virginia to attend the 50th anniversary of the Abebe Bikila victory in the 1960 Rome Olympic. Seifu saw his other hero Mohammed Ali in person at a fundraising event in Los Angeles in 1989.

Oakland

Boxing and personal Trainer and his health

Seifu trained and managed an Ethiopian boxer and worked as a personal trainer in Oakland, California. In mid 2009 he returned to Los Angeles and joined his relatives and started serious treatment for diabetes. He had watched his diet and exercised but now needed further treatment.In 1995 Seifu became a naturalized American citizen and at different times lived throughout Los Angeles, Washington DC, Virginia and Oakland and have two children Selam and Yohannes

pic of seifu
1979 trained by a professional boxing coach at the Main Street GYM in Los Angeles for his first proffesional fight in North America.
pic of seifu
1980 his first professional fight in North America with 6'4" American boxer in Pico Rivera in California.sending a left hoock to his opponent chin.
pic of seifu
1981 Seifu and Ken Norton a world heavy weight boxing champion in a fundraising gathering in Los Angeles . Jockngely inviting Norton for a fight.

Washington DC

1997 moved to Washington DC

After he moved to Washington DC he decided to go back to his boxing career not as a fighter but as a manager/promoter and got his license as a professional boxing promoter. At the time an aspiring young Ethiopian boxer named Sammy Retta had arrived from England to pursue a professional boxing career. Through some Ethiopian friends, Seifu met Sammy and they decided to work together. After a few fights, Sammy went back to England and he got stranded in England when he wanted to come back to the United States. He needed an invitation letter from a certified boxing promoter to enter the United States and Seifu sent him the letter and he was given a visa to enter to the United States. This time Sammy came to the United States with his family and Seifu helped him and his family with living expenses for sometime.

pic of seifu
1996 Sammy Retta trained managed and promoted by Seifu Makonnen

The first Certified Ethiopian professional boxing trainer/ manager/promoter

Seifu became the first Ethiopian certified professional boxing manager/promoter in America and Sammy Retta became his first fighter to train under his wings. Seifu promoted many of Sammy’s earlier fights in Washington DC and surrounding area, and Sammy went on winning most of his fights. Seifu had heavily invested time and money to launch Sammy’s career but after three major fights, Sammy decided to fight for another promoter.

pic of seifu
1996 Sammy Retta after winning his fight by TKO in the fourth round with his funs and promoter Seifu Makonnen.

In the late 2009 there was a highly publicized rumor that Sammy was scheduled to fight the former world heavy weight champion Evander Holly Field in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for AIDS fundraising match but the fight never materialized.. After Sammy’s departure Seifu continued managing other boxers and he was taking courses to be certified as a personal trainer. While he was in Washington DC and in Oakland his involvement with his Ethiopian community was high. He is the champion of all those young Ethiopian athletes of the present time and he always wanted to be part of their success. He himself as an athlete understood more than anyone else how encouraging it is when your countrymen are around you as fans, cheering you on when competing in a foreign land.

In 2000 Seifu organized a bus trip from Washington DC and traveled with 80 Ethiopians to New York City to support Kenenisa Bekele when he competed in the 3000 meter. The American Bernard Lagat came first and Kenenisa Bekele came second. In June 2007 Seifu came from Washington DC to Los Angeles and helped his cousin mobilize nearly 1000 members of the Ethiopian community to support Meseret Defar when she broke the world record in 2000 meter at the Home Depot Center in Los Angeles

pic of seifu
2006 Seifu printed flyers and rented a bus and took 80 Ethiopians to New York to support Kenenisa Bekele.

Hosted a weekly radio program

Tapping into his own investments started a weekly sports radio program in Amharic for the Ethiopian Community in Washington DC and interviewed more than 180 people including Ato Aklilu Habte the former president of the Haile Selassie University in Addis Ababa during the Haile Selassie regime, Ato Desta Girma, the former general manager of the Ethiopian Y.M.C.A and the 1972 Olympic team leader, Geremew Denboba the first Ethiopian who participated in the 1956 Melbourne Olympic representing Ethiopia in cycling, Girmma Cheru the first Ethiopian in the 1960’s who had an exercise program on Ethiopian radio, Haile G/ Selassie world record holder, Dosho Shifferaw a businessman who invented Bo flex, a successful exercise machine and national soccer team players, including Feseha Wolde Amanuel, Solomon Shifferaw (Cheebo), Ayaya, Sirak, Sebesbe, Mohammed Ali (Shedad)