Kiyan Prince was a hugely talented footballer about to sign for QPR until his life was cut painfully short outside of his Edgware school in 2006. A shy 15 year old he was stabbed to death merely for the offence of seeking to help his friend who was being bullied.

The crime was so shocking that it made the front page of the morning papers and was a lead item on the evening news. A time when these things still had the power to stop us in our tracks; before we became desensitised by the frequency of what is for many only a mercifully distant horror. I remember reading it in the newspaper, probably on my way to work, and being moved by the vanished potential and the loss to his family.

 

Then, like almost everyone else I continued with my life and swiftly forgot. My inactivity marking me merely as a detached voyeur into someone else’s grief. Such absentminded indifference was obviously not an option available to Kiyan’s father, former IBF and WBO Inter-Continental light heavyweight champion Mark Prince. An individual that has kept his son’s memory alive by his commitment to tackling violence and empowering young people via The Kiyan Prince Foundation. A man determined to redirect his heartbreak and anger into something positive and to make a permanent difference to other peoples lives.

Mac Pemhiwa, is due to make his professional debut this weekend at London’s York Hall on the British Warriors promotion. At 27, he is the same age as Kiyan Prince, would have been had he lived. He has trod a path as a nine year old from his native Zimbabwe, to Southend and ultimately Edinburgh. He, like Prince sr. is determined to make a difference by tackling knife crime and violence through his Young Life’s Matter UK charity.  Declining to take the customary option of noisy emotion followed by inertia, Pemhiwa has put his boundless drive and energy behind this worthy project.

I ask him how it got started.

“One night I was going through my Facebook and I am just seeing all these feeds coming up. Stuff like this and that person has been stabbed. When I was growing up we had none of this stuff. So, I thought what is really going wrong with this generation. Because kids as young as 11 or 12 are joining gangs and stabbing each other. It was just unheard of when I was growing up in Southend.”

“So, I felt that with the platform and followers that I have it was necessary for me to jump on and say ‘what is going on?’ and ask some questions. I am trying to raise awareness to those that don’t know what is going on.”

Pemhiwa, a light-heavy with an unbeaten record of 30 wins on the unlicensed semi-pro circuit, held his most recent event in Southend just a couple of weeks ago. He describes it energetically and with his absolute sense of purpose shining through.

“Our last event was like a festival with 450 people turning up. We had some motivational speakers, entertainment, poetry and street performance. It is all to help get our message out. Obviously, Rome wasn’t built in a day. We can’t change everything overnight. But we can at least start taking steps towards it.”

“If we invite these people in and use those few hours that they are away from the street, then we might get through to them and save a few of them.”

 Pemhiwa’s commitment to the charity is further underpinned by the recent loss of a friend to knife crime.

“I am always 100% going to stand by this. It is something that I am very dedicated too, because it is so close to home. Literally, two weeks ago one of my friends got killed in Southend. These guys are killing each other over something so simple. People are totally ignorant of what is going on out there until it comes into their home.”

I ask Pemhiwa the impossible question: why does it happen and how can it be stopped? He considers it for a moment and surprises me with his answer. Rather than the familiar excuses of social injustice, he places it firmly on parental accountability and responsibility – he has two children- and the poor example provided by the music industry.

“The parents need to get more involved in the kids’ lives. Parents are leaving I-pad’s, YouTube and even teachers to raise their children. They aren’t finding out what’s wrong with their child. If they have mental health problems or are being bullied. All these things that manifest into a kid going ‘you know what? I am gonna pick up a knife.’ They think that way they can stand out and be someone.”

“The music culture and the direction its taking is wrong. The people that are listening to it now days are too young. Kids as young as 10 listening to rap music. The songs are not talking about positive things. It’s all negative, like killing people and that. All these kids listening to it want to make it their reality and don’t understand that the people they are hearing are actually actors, in some sense.”

Pemhiwa, recently left Southend, for a new life in Edinburgh. A place where he has lots of family connections and jokes that “the air is definitely cleaner”, but it is obvious that he feels a deep connection to his past life in Essex. Beyond his charity work he has a fashion label and a business producing organic honey in Africa. But, none of this detracts from his focus to make it in the professional ranks. Instead, it is something that can complement and even drive these other commitments, especially his anti-knife campaign.

At the age of 27 Pemhiwa is already at an advanced age to initiate a career in the pro’s. I ask him: why now? And, he answers emphatically.

“I’m hungry man. I’m ready to take care of business. I’m ready to prove it to everyone and show them what I can do.”

“I didn’t have an amateur career, so I felt I had to prove myself in the unlicensed stuff first, before I could be counted or even considered ready to turn pro. I feel like I had to earn my stripes first of all.”

However, Pemhiwa is undeniably aware that he cannot hang around in terms of development and confirms that he is “looking to stay really busy this year.” He has set the ambitious target of fighting four times between now and the end of 2018. A southern area title has been identified as his key first step and he would love to follow that with a British title shot in the next two to three years.

Pemhiwa is an incredibly driven and level headed individual. He works tirelessly, and has multiple grand plans across so many differing and divergent areas of his life. At his centre is a steely fortitude and the zeal to maximise his time on this earth. It would be easy to classify him in some respects as a dreamer but this would be wholly unfair. He has high aims, expectations and ideals but everything that he says is backed up by the acknowledgment that even the best set plans are dependent on hard work and perseverance.

His hopes for his ring career are entirely consistent with how he approaches all the other aspects of his life.

“I never say never in anything. I’m not saying that when I look back in the next six or seven years I will be fighting for a world title. But, at the same time I will take any opportunities I can. Right now I will just keep my head down and focus on my main goal of establishing my name.”

Pemhiwa describes himself as a “technical fighter that likes to exploit my opponent’s mistakes.” He has been working hard in the gym for the past six months, ahead of Saturday’s debut. His focus has been on relearning much of his craft and ironing out any bad habits that have been allowed to form in the semi-pro game. The Simon Dempsey trained fighter describes it thus.

“I really wanted to go back to basics. So, I have been working a lot with some really good amateurs. I have been training with them and a couple of guys from Lochend gym as well. It’s all about getting it back to basics, stripping it down and almost reinventing my style.”

Mac Pemhiwa is confident that he will kick things off with a win at York Hall. So confident in fact that he is happy to place his prediction on the record.

“It’s gonna be fireworks. I will tell you 1st round!”

It is all done with a smile and a chuckle but there is no doubt that he believes it. Pemhiwa is a “fireworks” kind of guy. His whole life is aimed at shaking things up and setting off his own explosions. It doesn’t matter if it’s: errant teenage kids, fashion, honey or boxing. The passion and commitment is impossible to ignore.

*For more details or to support Young Lives Matter UK you can contact Mac directly on Twitter @teamShumba or via their Facebook or Instagram page.

Follow Mac Pemhiwa on Twitter @MacPemhiwa

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