His trainer not only trained him for free, but often gave him food with his Pakistani and Indian friends.
Alpha Lucky Handsome Chukwunwicke Okechukwu. Photo: Supplied
Hungry, homeless and broke. Just over a year ago, Nigerian expat Alpha Lucky Handsome Chukwunwicke Okechukwu was at his wit’s end.
Alpha had no roof over his head, no money, and nothing to eat. The only thing he had was a dream, and he clung to it in the face of insurmountable odds to finally cut corners.
“Sixteen months ago, I slept on an empty stomach in the streets of Sharjah. Today, I run a fitness club in Dubai which employs several people,” explains the young entrepreneur.
Alpha said he hopes his story of determination and perseverance can inspire others to never lose sight of their goals.
The second eldest of four siblings, Alpha, came to the United Arab Emirates in January 2018 on the advice of a pastor from his hometown of Agbor in Nigeria’s Delta State.
“The pastor said my destiny was in Dubai. I took his words seriously, packed my bags and came here to look for work,” he recalls.
An officer took him to Ajman, where he shared a room with ten other people. “I was a fitness trainer at home, so I thought my best bet was to get a job at a gym. It wasn’t easy.”.
Alpha said he spent months knocking on doors at various fitness centers before a gym in Sharjah hired him for a modest salary.
Here Alpha met an Uzbek boxing trainer who saw the young man’s potential and took him under his wing. “I had barely trained with him for three days when I heard about an amateur boxing tournament at Al Batal and Kickboxing Gym in Sharjah. I decided to give it a shot. “My trainer was appalled as I wasn’t ready yet. He said he would never train me if I lost the fight.”
This does not happen. Alpha won the tournament. A second gold medal followed three months later when he floored his opponent with a knockout punch.
Soon Alpha was spending more time at local boxing tournaments than at his job. It didn’t go well with his employer. “He asked me to choose between my profession and my passion. I chose the latter,” he says.
With his income dried up, the boxer fell behind on his rent payments and was subsequently evicted.
“Those were the hardest days of my life. I spent several nights on Sharjah Corniche wondering where my next meal would come from,” he says.
Despite his precarious situation, Alpha did not give up on my training and won five more gold medals at local boxing tournaments.
“As a boxer, I had to consume a certain number of calories a day, but there were times when I couldn’t even afford a loaf of bread. I am grateful to my trainer, who not only trained me for free, but often bought me food. My Pakistani and Indian friends also helped me.
In 2019 Alpha’s visa was canceled and he had to come back. But he didn’t let the setback deter him.
In Nigeria, he continued to train and qualified to represent Nigeria at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo after being selected in the African Boxing Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
Unfortunately, his Olympic dream was dashed when the event was postponed to 2021. By then Alpha was back in Dubai and starting from scratch.
“I was unable to participate in the Olympics as Nigeria refused to send a boxer to the Games on the revised dates due to financial, technical and logistical reasons,” he says.
It was the first time since the 1960 Olympics in Rome that Nigeria did not field a boxer for the world’s biggest sporting event, except for the 1976 edition, which was boycotted by the country .
“I was heartbroken. All those months of preparation had been wasted. During this time, I felt like deja vu as I quickly ran out of money while looking for a job and found myself once again on the familiar streets of Sharjah,” he says.
Alpha said his fortunes began to change when he offered to work for free at two fitness centers in Dubai’s Al Barsha district.
“I would do personal training sessions and donate part of my earnings to gyms. Along with a ripped body, I had technical knowledge and skills, relevant certificates, and great communication skills. Customers liked what they saw.
Around the same time, Alpha found work at a fitness center that used electrical muscle stimulation (EMS) to get quick results.
Within months, her life was back on track. He began attracting clients for the center and was soon promoted to manager.
“I was earning well and living well, but I wasn’t happy. I wanted to showcase my transformative fitness solutions, and I thought the best way to do that was to start something independently.
“I dreamed of creating the best boxing and fitness system in the country, but no one was willing to invest in someone who was homeless and worthless just months ago.
“But I supported myself until I found the right people who believed in me and agreed to be part of my dream,” he says.
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Alpha launched his business earlier this year, aptly called Alpha Fitness Club, which offers personal training services at home, in gyms and outdoors.
“We have used world class trainers including certified transformation and glute specialists, motivational trainers and highly certified fitness experts. Business is good as we do 15-20 sessions per day.”
Next month, the company will also open an independent gym near Dubai Festival City.
“Dubai is a city of dreams, and my story proves that nothing is impossible here if you put your heart, soul and sweat into it. I’m far from making it big, but I will one day. I’m only 24.”