Sunday, May 4, 2008


FOR the older generations who frequently enter the gates of the Maximum Security Unit at Naboro, from the 70s and 80s and even until today, no one rose above Mataiasi Curusese, alias Make It.
But the Make It of that time which everyone knew, now takes a new road toward nation building by the plans that founded his knowledge of the sport of boxing in between his religious and lifetime testimonies of helping the young generation, in particular those who may be following his footsteps and still chasing their dream.
But his lifetime testimonies started way back in 1978 at the age of 18 where his life had only one goal to achieve and one vision to fulfil — to become a world champion in the only trade he knew, boxing.
His success throughout his amateur days and even his short professional career was inspired by the visions and dreams of being the first Fijian to don a world boxing title in his weight level.
Today, the mind that built his unfinished career and dreams has gone and he stands alone, reminiscing on a past chapter of his life he wants to bring back to life.
His story really starts at the setting of the sun in the Soul Man era with high-heeled shoes and bell bottoms, peace signs on Lee jackets with matching overall and pointed steel-toed boots, rock and roll music giving way to hip hop tunes, mini skirts with punk haircuts and weird bands like Kiss and others into heavy metal rock.
In the streets of Suva, the Green Army's dominant voice and reputation took quite a beating by the authorities on a clean-up campaign embarking on new concepts of development.
For the Ministry of Youth and Development, new sporting events and coaches like the late Harry Charman and Henry Gibson with martial arts, acrobat training and boxing with its overseas connections started cleaning the streets of Suva of homeless youths and a couple of Green Army people included joined the rollercoaster ride in the government's newly introduced "fight against crime".
Later in the same decade, the Police Mobile Unit now known as the Tactical Response Team had taken another approach as they patrolled the streets of Suva after 1am where a curfew was initiated for drunkards to stay clear of the streets.
If found on any corner in Suva or surrounding areas, you were placed under arrest and charged the next morning.
It was during this era that a lad of 17 and a bony expression and built reaching a little over five feet, eight inches, walked into the gym at the Union Club.
He picked a boxing glove, put it on and was called into the ring minutes later for a fight.
It was the beginning of what would rewrite the course of young Make It's life in his new path to the life he always wished for — to be an ambassador of his country to any games overseas.
With every opponent, he approached with the concept of becoming the best and later on a world champion.
It made him different from all the others.
It was during his training sessions that he developed another program to watch the other boxers.
His timing in the art of interception, as it was later introduced to the silver screen by the legendary Bruce Lee's Jeet Kune Do fighting techniques — where he could make two moves to every move you made.
For Make It, he developed a two-way counter that led with a decoy movement of the head showing his opponents his approach and then attacking the other parts of the body.
His eyes would clearly signify his targets whether it was the body, rib cage or the face.
Like the once undisputed world boxing champion Mike Tyson, his fall from grace hit him like a thunderstorm that never gave him a second chance in life but a
bottomless hole he is still falling through today.
It was a woman and a jail sentence that dethroned Tyson.
For Make It, it was a wrong turn that he still winces about today even though it was done in accordance of the gang law book.
Entering prison, being just a week away from the second phase of his world championship route, a Commonwealth tour, his first plans were to do his time, get out and get back with his life.
"It was the first thing I saw in there that made me what I became through those years.
"People were being forced to lick the concrete walkways clean with their bare tongue. Some were forced to eat cockroaches and the beatings, they said, were government orders to rehabilitate us, calling us animals," Make It said.
That changed every concept of his approach to prison.
He looked to the ministry as a fatherly figure which would develop him further in his dreams with their guiding hands but he saw the opposite.
His talent took to another bout in prison as he clashed with the guards throughout his sentence.
Unlike the others who gave in to the concrete-cleaning process when forced, he refused and every refusal called for another unofficial bout in the jungle where no holds were barred.
Meeting up with Iliaseri Saqasaqa (General), they organised what was to be the first strike in prison in 1980.
It was Make It who appointed General to be their spokesman, being the oldest in prison, while he became their hitman when all other methods failed.
It was Make It who torched every building during the riots.
The officers knew the prisoners hierarchy system that led to him and General being placed in dark cells after the takeover. As for Make It, he was confined to solitary dark cell punishment for six months without a blanket or mattress.
"Whether it was night or day, you could never tell but the number of meals," he said.
"If three came one after another, than it was daytime.
"The cold was unbearable and the dark cell is a terrifying experience.
"For us who spent more than a month in that place, we now suffer from arthritis."
Make It was released in the mid 80s and the two of them (him and General) had numerous cases of armed robbery across the country. His dreams of reaching the top had long been forgotten but what remained was rage.
"At times, all I could think of was killing. I came out with so much anger that I just wanted to raise an army and just drive by shooting and killing people."
His colleagues from Maximum, now free, picked up a new identity in crime violent robbers.
"The crimes that followed were always done in violence. Without it, we sort of missed out on our trademark and it wasn't us."
What took away his pride and love of his dream tainted his life forever that even his expression and his newly reformed concepts of nation building was a total contrast.
"I only want to get back to the ring as an assistant to any developing program that might see my ideas and the ways I developed my speed techniques.
"That is what I want to give back to the youths of today because along the line, there could be one more hungry than what I was but in the rhythm of the wrong company."
He said things could be smooth by the way they look but one thing he learned through experience is that some of the problems we face in this world, we did not chose them.
They chose us through our unseen fate and destiny.
"We cannot say one is better than the other or this one I prefer from the other one.
"They all have their gift to our understanding and experience building if we were to take a closer look at them and learn from them. In my own way and experience, I have learned to understand that every sad thing I encountered at the Maximum Security Unit, the insults and everything I call degrading was my preparation for the tonnes of experiences I want to share with the youths of today in the course of nation building."

Adapted from Fijitimes Online