Cindy Ngamba’s extraordinary fight to box for Britain and keep her Olympic dream alive | ‘I had to go through so much’ | Boxing News

News Story

For Cindy Ngamba, her greatest fight lies outside the ropes.

She boxes internationally for the Fair Chance refugee team but her dream is to represent GB at the Olympic Games.

She had to fight for her right to stay in the UK and is battling to resolve her citizenship so she can box for Britain.

“To get the refugee status I had to go through so many difficulties in immigration, with the Home Office, I got put into detention camp by them, there were so many occasions of them trying to kick me out of the UK and trying to send me back to a country I left when I was very young and I know no one,” Ngamba told Sky Sports.

Cindy Ngamba works the pads (Photo: Andy Chubb/GB Boxing)
Cindy Ngamba works the pads at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield (Photo: Andy Chubb/GB Boxing)

“So I’ve gone through very, very hard times with immigration and the Home Office.

“Once you’ve had a hard time just to get the refugee status, then you’re used to it.”

The UK has been Ngamba’s home since she was a young child. But despite that she was seized and held in a detention camp under threat of deportation to Cameroon.

That happened when she was 17. Attending one of her regular appointments at an immigration office in Bolton, where she lives, Ngamba suddenly noticed a large police presence around her.

“They told me ‘you are under arrest’ and I couldn’t believe it. So I just burst into tears and my brother got arrested too,” she said. “We just disa’ppeared for the night.

Cindy Ngamba (Photo: Andy Chubb/GB Boxing)
Cindy Ngamba is a refugee but was threatened with deportation (Photo: Andy Chubb/GB Boxing)

“We got brought all the way to London to a detention centre and I stayed there for the night. At that moment I thought that was the end. Because I had my dad here, I had my family here, I had my siblings here.

“I got to learn about so many people’s lives, some people were going to get sent back the next day, some people had been there so many years to wait to be sent back or wait for their papers to get sorted. Learning about all these stories.

“I didn’t know what to think. I was just blank. I just felt sorry for myself. I felt helpless. Luckily they let us go two days later.”

She had to be released. Cameroon would not be safe for Ngamba. Human rights groups have documented the rising persecution of LGBTQ+ people in the country.

“Because of my sexuality,” she explained. “In Cameroon it’s illegal to be gay. It’s illegal to have any kind of sexuality instead of straight, because you get killed and you get put into prison and you get tortured. So that was one of the reasons why I was given refugee status.”

Cindy Ngamba with one of the coaches at the GB Boxing gym in Sheffield (Photo: Andy Chubb)
Cindy Ngamba with one of the coaches at the GB Boxing gym in Sheffield (Photo: Andy Chubb)

She has the document that confirms her as a refugee so she can travel to pursue her boxing. But she’s still waiting for citizenship, despite living in the UK since she was 10 years old.

“I can barely remember being in Cameroon,” Ngamba said. “I was very young. I went to school here, I went to college, now I’m going to university, I have friends, I have my family, everyone, I can basically say I am a British citizen.

“I still speak to my teachers back in school. This is home for me. When I tell people how long I’ve been in this country they’re all so shocked. They’re like, ‘Wow, they still haven’t fixed your papers?’

“It’s not that easy. It might seem easy when I tell you the amount of years that I’ve been here in the UK but it’s not easy. It’s all to do with immigration, the Home Office.

Cindy Ngamba (Photo: Andy Chubb/GB Boxing)
Cindy Ngamba’s dream is to box for Britain at an Olympic Games (Photo: Andy Chubb/GB Boxing)

“I just have to wait a couple of years and just pray and hope for the best. Hopefully they can fix it for me.”

Without a British passport she can’t box for GB. But she trains with the Olympic squad in Sheffield and can take part in international competition for the Fair Chance refugee team.

“It’s just a waiting game. I’m grateful to GB because if it wasn’t for them the refugee team would not have been able to find me to give me the scholarship to help me and travel around and go to training camps with GB,” she said.

But she longs to represent Britain, ultimately at the Olympic Games.

“I tell everyone and I tell you – I want to be able to compete for GB. That’s my dream,” she said.

“To stand on the stage with my medal and to say that I competed for my country, I won a medal for my country. That is the most beautiful thing.

Cindy Ngamba takes a crucial international win (Photo: GB Boxing)
Cindy Ngamba takes a crucial international win (Photo: GB Boxing)

“Lauren [Price] and Karriss [Artingstall], Galal [Yafai], Frazer [Clarke], Ben [Whittaker], Pat [McCormack], they all did it and I looked at them and I was like, ‘Wow that’s so cool. I want to do that one day.’

“That’s my dream. All I have to do is just keep working hard.”

For the Paris Olympics next year Ngamba would be a key medal hope for GB.

Boxing domestically Ngamba has already achieved something very rare indeed. She is a three time national Elite champion but extraordinarily did it in descending order.

Ngamba won her first England Boxing Elite title at light-heavyweight, her second at middle and her third most recently at light-middle, 70kgs.

“No one has ever done that, gone from high to low,” she said. “It was an amazing process. I had to learn a lot about myself.”

Earlier this month she won a gold medal at the Bocskai tournament in Hungary, one of the key events on the European circuit that’s been won by Olympic champions like Anthony Joshua before.

Cindy Ngamba stands at the top of podium in the Bocskai (Photo: GB Boxing)
Cindy Ngamba stands at the top of podium in the Bocskai (Photo: GB Boxing)

“It means a lot to me. I’m so grateful. There’s many more to come,” she said. “I think I’ve earned my place as an international boxer. I’ve still got a lot to learn, but myself I feel like I deserve to be there and my hard work will pay off.

“Lauren Price went there and she won a medal too. Karriss and Galal and all of the previous GB boxers they have gone there and won medals. It was a big one, it was a great event. There were about 450 athletes there from different countries. Everyone got tested.

“Everyone gave their all, that’s what matters.”

Ngamba’s goal remains constant. “I appreciate what I have. I’m able to go out. Compete, train, do what I love the most, do what I’m good at, do what God has given me as a gift,” she said.

The Great Britain team in Hungary (Photo: GB Boxing)
Ngamba with the Great Britain team in Hungary (Photo: GB Boxing)

“If they’re not able to fix my papers then I’ll be going to the Olympics in the refugee team instead. I still have to qualify like every boxer in the world. [But] that’s plan B.”

For the time being her life remains in limbo. “You could say in a way I’m used to it,” Ngamba said. “I’m not scared. I don’t get scared. I don’t get worried.

“I trust in myself and I just go in there and I do my work.”

Leave a Reply