Retired Boxer Esther Phiri says she has “made it in life” because of self-discipline, determination and hard work.

The former women’s welterweight champion, who earned a living by helping her mother sell merchandise on the streets in Lusaka before she shot to stardom in the boxing world, narrated how she overcame ridicule from numerous Zambians to realise her dreams.

In an interview with ZNBC’s Sports Live program, Tuesday, Esther recalled how said she was called names, including prostitute, but that she ignored the mockery as she was determined to overcome poverty.

“For me, I can say it’s all about discipline and you prove to people that what you are doing is the right thing. It’s not easy to work with people or to win corporate brands and you tell them that what I am doing is the right thing, I’m doing it out of my heart, so it’s all about discipline and hard work. You need to stand strong. It’s not just men who can do it, even us [women] we can do it. At first, I was intimidated, they called me some names like kakonka bamuna ku gym, nika hule (she is just following men at the gym, she is a prostitute). You know such things. But time inabwela yakwana (my time came) when I said what I’m doing is serious. And I have to change someone’s life. So, for me, I have made it in life, I have made it. I need to just be disciplined and to tell the youths good things,” Esther said.

“They need just to work hard, listen your coach, listen to your managers, one day you will be your own boss. I don’t have any papers here, but I can talk to you, you can advise me, you can encourage me, because I am determined and I know what I want at the end of the day so I’m here also to talk good things to my youths so that one day, they can be like me. What I am going to say to our parents, you are our parents but when there is an opportunity, let the child do sports.”

She said those close to her wondered whether she had gone “crazy” because she had completely changed her life.

“And sports is a good thing in many ways at the end of the day, it can change lives. Look at m! I am independent through sports. You know ma parents bakaona mwana ayenda yenda automatically bankala against (when parents see you making several moves, they automatically become antagonistic) but if she is doing the right thing, learn to support,” said Esther. “Banthu benzokamba ati afuntha uyu (Poeple used to think I had gone crazy) and my mum said ‘nivichinji vauchita iwe’ (what is it that you are doing?). But at the end of the day, she learnt something and she started supporting me. I’m encouraging all parents to be supportive to the girl child. I’m a good example, I’m independent because I received support. I have built my own house through sports, there are many others who can do the same. When those girls go to the gym, they don’t go to do prostitution.”