Freddy’s parents met in Liberia, a small strip of land on the west coast of Africa. Bordered by Sierra Leone to the north, Guinea to the east and the Ivory Coast to the south. Werner Kiwitt was a German citizen who had come to Nimba County in Liberia in 1985 as a consultant to aid in repairing the broken educational system there. While working there he met Tutu Tour, a native Liberian from Scalepea in the heart of Nimba County.
The country was relatively stable politically, however in 1980 Samuel Doe had risen to power via a bloody coup. He killed then president William R. Tolbert and executed the entire True Whig Party the de facto ruling party of Liberia and Doe installed himself as dictator. In 1985 the same year Werner Kiwitt came to the country Doe held and won an election, the result of which was widely viewed as spurious. There was an unsuccessful coup attempt in 1989 led by disgraced General Thomas Quiwonkpa who was executed and allegedly eaten.
It was becoming clear the situation was combustible.
Full scale civil war broke out just one year later in 1990. Some African countries banded together and attempted to keep the peace.
However, fueled by ethnic tensions, political and power agendas rival guerilla and anti-government groups collided in Liberia’s First Civil War.
Into this unspeakable hell on 24 August 1990 was born Frederick Glelou, Glelou for Wartime in the indigenous tongue. The war raged, Charles Taylor, little more than gangster once a member of Doe’s cabinet had built an insurgency based out of neighboring Ivory Coast. Leading another faction was the dictator Doe and the third antagonist was essentially a homicidal maniac Prince Yormie Johnson, notorious for torturing and killing anyone who opposed him during the war.
Two weeks after the birth of their son Freddy, Prince Johnson and his forces stormed the capital of Monrovia, captured Samuel Doe and while in their custody brutally tortured and then executed Doe. They filmed the entire thing and Prince Johnson was videotaped languidly drinking a beer while Doe was mutilated.
Werner and Tutu fled for their lives with their infant son back to Germany.
The First Liberian Civil War raged for some seven years resulting in the loss of some 250,000 souls.
I can’t fathom it.
Nevertheless, werner and his young family built a life in Germany.
Freddy loved sports as a boy, and played soccer until he was sidelined due to injury. He picked up boxing around age 18 and had success straight away including a gold medal in international competition. After a short 10 fight career as an amateur Freddy made the decision to enter the pro ranks.
It would be a decision fraught with setbacks, success and a surprise he could not have imagined coming from the country and life he left behind.
It would turn out that this development would be exactly what he never knew he needed.
Lee Manuel Ossie was born in 1968 in the capital of Liberia, Monrovia. Ossie was nicknamed Destroyer and he came by the name honestly. He amassed a final record of 34W-6L with 20 knockouts. Though he never won a major title he must be viewed as a success considering the lack of depth in African boxing over the last 20 years or so.
Like Freddy, the darkness and evil of the First Liberian Civil War rolled across Ossie’s life like a Tsunami. Ossie’s family was virtually wiped out in the violence. He left Liberia emigrating to Spain and began fighting out of his adopted country in mid 1994.
Ossie swore he would never return - the pain of his loss was a memory so traumatic and immediate he could not recover from it if he had five lifetimes. Liberia took everything from him and didn’t believe he had anything to give back to her.
Freddy and Manuel Ossie’s harrowing tale was laid out to me by local businessman and philanthropist Jason Scalzo outside a busy cafe in our hometown Charleston, SC.
I will be writing more about Jason, his fascinating path and the organization that both he, Freddy and Ossie are a part of Butterfly Affect Boxing (BAB) in the coming weeks. In any case, Jason was looking for Liberian boxers to help spearhead the program and thanks to the interconnected world of social media Jason was able to put Ossie and Freddy together! The two hit it off immediately and the timing could not have been better.
Freddy, now based out of London was struggling as a pro, he was ensnared in an upside down deal with his promoter at the time and was not getting the training he needed either. For a kid like Freddy as we have seen with many other fighters who do not have an amateur pedigree or medals they are learning on the the job, often they are learning wrong. Ossie was in Spain running a boxing gym and largely going through the motions in life.
Jason brought the two men together at a point in their lives when they needed the other most.
Ossie jumped on a plane and met Freddy and offered to train him and the two have been together since.
Freddy’s boxing career has also taken a turn for the better, he has been contracted by the Sauerland brothers - the men behind the World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) tournaments featuring the best Super Middleweight and Cruiserweight fighters. Freddy’s record currently stands at 12W-2L with 7 KOs and has a British Southern Area Welterweight title to his resume.
After losing a questionable and razor thin ref decision last September Freddy had to hit reset again, then as a stroke of luck - the bout Freddy had scheduled for this coming Saturday 16 February would be for the vacant Lonsdale belt at Welterweight! This would be precisely the trinket Freddy would need to move into the next phase of his career. A British title could punch his ticket into the next WBSS featuring Welterweights should the Sauerlands chose to hold their next tournament at 147 pounds for example.
Then just days before the scheduled fight a gut punch…
Jason texted me yesterday afternoon - Freddy’s opponent pulled out with an infection. Freddy would get a new opponent and the fight would no longer be for the British Welterweight title.
I’m gutted for Freddy, everyone who knows him even if you are on the faint periphery like me wants to see Freddy succeed after hearing his story.
Freddy must realize he already is a success and an inspiration.
Over the Christmas season Freddy finally visited extended family in Liberia, he had not been there for 25 years since his parents fled with him in terror to Germany.
Lee Manuel Ossie has also pledged to return to Liberia after decades of self imposed exile with Freddy and Jason as part of BAB to help foster positive change in the formally war torn nation through the sport of boxing.
As of this writing Freddy Kiwitt will be fighting Jumanne Camaro as the chief support for Joe Joyce vs Rudolf Jozic this Friday night at the famous York Hall in London.
If you are in the area show up and show your support for Freddy, tell him the Jasons sent you.
For you Freddy, if you are reading this, stories like yours inspired the creation of BOXRAW.
Adversity does not build character, it reveals it!
So go in that ring this weekend, knock seven kinds of shit out of this kid, then get back in the gym and prepare for the next one! If you continue to work as hard as you are, titles will come, accolades will come and you will have Ossie, Jason and myself as well as your whole family that you have rediscovered in Liberia cheering and praying for you!
Titles come and go, records can be forgotten, I know you are fighting for a cause and belief much greater than material accolades.
And in that quest no matter what your record says, when the end comes you will be successful.
19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.