Namibia: Spotlight On Jonas Junias

ZCZC

Namibia: Spotlight On Jonas Junias

JONAS Junias shot to fame in 2014, when he won a silver medal at the Commonwealth Games at the tender age of 20. In the process he became only the fourth Namibian boxer to win a medal at the Commonwealth Games, but the determined young man is far from satisfied and has now set his sights on winning gold at the Rio Olympic Games.

Jonas was born and raised in Swakopmund and was initially more interested in soccer, playing street football with his friends. He only discovered boxing quite late, at the age of 10, but he immediately fell in love with the sport.

"I met a guy from another school who kept pigeons at home so I also became interested in that. But he was also into boxing and so I used to go along and watch him train at the gym and I just fell in love with the sport," he said.

He was a rare talent and made an immediate impact when he started boxing competitively for the first time, even though he was not prepared for his debut.

"Once I went along with my friend to a tournament in Walvis Bay just to watch, but then the coach said I couldn't just watch, I also had to box, so I was forced to box. I only trained for one day before, but I won that first fight. After that I didn't train for about two weeks, but the coach asked my friend, 'where is that boy that boxed last time'. So he found me and said 'I've seen something in you and I think you should come back to the gym', and that's how it all started."

Jonas started training and competing in local and regional tournaments and went on an unbeaten streak in the junior ranks, but he admits that he wasn't very disciplined at that stage.

"Sometimes I didn't go to training but my coach would always come looking for me and take me to the gym. It was only when I grew older that I realised that boxing was my sport - it just came naturally," he said.

Jonas' boxing career however nearly came to a premature end after he suffered a serious injury at the age of 12 when boiling water accidentally fell on him. Boxing took a back seat for a while as he had to go to hospital several times over the next few years and it was only in 2009, at the age of 15, that he started boxing again.

His natural talent immediately shone through and by 2010 he won his first national junior title. By 2011 he had established himself as the top junior in his category and age group, and by 2012 he was included in a national youth team that went on a training camp to Cuba, in preparation for the Zone 6 Youth Games in Zambia.

Here Jonas fell foul of biased judging for the first time - a recurring theme in years to come - as he won a silver medal after losing the final to a boxer from Botswana.

"I won that fight, but I don't know how I got the silver medal because I was leading on points. I even knocked the guy down, but the referee did something fishy - he was talking to me and trying to slow the fight down and then went back to do the count. That boxer would not have survived but then he recovered and got up again," he said."

"I was very angry and even broke the flowers they gave me at the medal presentation and threw it on the ground," he added.

In 2013 boxing took a back seat as Jonas moved to Omaruru to complete his schooling at SI Gobs, but he returned to boxing in 2014 - a year in which he would make history.

Fighting as a senior for the first time, he won gold at the National Boxing Championships and followed that up with a silver medal at the Zone 4 Championships in South Africa after losing to a fighter from Botswana in the final.

At the All Africa Championships in South Africa a month later, he however suffered another controversial defeat and was eliminated in the quarterfinals.

"It wasn't fair - I faced a boxer from Algeria, I beat him up, but the judges were all Arabic and awarded the fight to him. But it's part of boxing, there's nothing fair in boxing," he said.

But Jonas' true worth shone through when he took the Commonwealth Games by storm.

He comfortably won his opening two fights to reach the quarterfinals where he was pushed all the way before beating Leroy Hindley of New Zealand.

"That was a very difficult fight, I think that was the toughest fight in my life, but I gained a lot of experience."

In the semifinals he put on a boxing masterclass to beat Sean Duffy of Northern Ireland to reach the final where he lost a close fight to Josh Taylor of Scotland.

Jonas was initially not happy with the silver medal, and it was only later that the significance of his achievement sunk in.

"I was not happy with the silver medal because I felt I deserved the gold, but still it was a very big achievement to win silver medal at the Commonwealth Games. I only realised how big it was when I came back home to Namibia and received a big welcome," he said.

Later that year he received further recognition when he won the Namibian Sportsman of the Year as well as the Sport Achiever of the Year awards to rake in N$300 000 in prize money.

In 2015 Jonas won a silver medal at the All Africa Games in Congo Brazzaville, losing to an Algerian fighter in the final, and earlier this year he finally fulfilled his dream of qualifying for the Olympics when he won the gold medal at the Olympic Qualifiers in Cameroon.

"It has always been my biggest dream, to qualify for the Olympic Games, but now that I've qualified I'm no longer excited, I just feel I have to finish the business," he said.

"I believe I'm going to make history - I'm aiming for the gold medal and I can already see it happening," he said.

One on one with Jonas Junias

When and where were you born?

In Swakopmund on 24 November 1993.

Which schools did you attend?

Vrederede Primary School, Atlantic Junior Secondary and SI Gobs Secondary School.

Who was your sporting hero as a child?

Harry Simon - till today he is my hero. He noticed me a long time ago already when I was still young and has been encouraging me all these years so I have a very good relationship with him.

What do you like to eat and drink?

Kapana and my mom's meals. I like to drink fruit juice.

What's your favourite holiday destination?

Miami. I flew past there once and the view looked fantastic.

What was your best performance in the ring?

At the 2012 National Boxing Championships in Walvis Bay when I won the best junior boxer of the tournament award. I always look back to those videos and think, wow, is this really me.

What are your ambitions in boxing and in life?

I want to turn professional next year and I want to become a world champion and bring the WBC title to Namibia. No Namibian has won that title yet so that is my aim. After boxing I want to go into business.

What advice do you have for the youth in Namibia?

They must just focus on what they want in life and put more effort into achieving that. If you work hard you will achieve it.

Source: The Namibian