“Nap” Peregrino – Pioneer of Boxing in Surulere – By Kanmi Ademiluyi

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                     ‘NAP’ Peregrino

The patrician ‘Nap’ Peregrino passed on 31 years ago in his residence at Laboye Laleye Close, off Tafawa Balewa Crescent. That area is right at the heart of “New Lagos”, as Surulere was officially gazetted. His property, which he moved into in 1962, is part of the path-breaking scheme put up by the Lagos State Economic Development Board as a housing scheme for deserving civil servants on a rent-to-buy basis, a variation of the long-term mortgage scheme. It ought to have been continued. Peregrino was at the time a high-ranking officer at the Administrator Generals office which dealt with probates, the administration of Wills and Estates, and other such matters.
‘Nap’ Peregrino represented the spirit of an era. Much of it pre-independence, it was a time of great optimism. Most people saw him as a modern renaissance man. He was very much part of a diverse scene pre- and post-independence. His social confidence came naturally. He was born into the upper strata of colonial society. His maternal grandfather was Nigeria’s first lawyer, Christopher Alexander Sapara Williams, who was called into the English Bar in 1886, and whose younger brother, Oguntolu, became Nigeria’s first medical doctor. He is now famously associated with the eradication of smallpox and the traditional cults which used it as a method of warfare.

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        Sapara-Williams

Peregrino’s mother, Ayo, was sent to boarding school in Wales and later trained as a midwife. She married a scion of the established Peregrino family, a wealthy trader who owned stables for horses in the Okesuna area of central Lagos, but who died tragically early when Nap was seven years old.
With his mother posted around the country working in the colonial civil service, boarding school was inevitable. He was enrolled at the prestigious Christian Missionary School (CMS Grammar School) in Lagos. He always thereafter remembered with fondness an institution which broadened his outlook and gave him a network of lifelong friends.
From CMS he inevitably joined the colonial civil service, very much a rite of passage at the time. Just as his father had been associated with horseracing, Nap Peregrino will always be remembered as a pioneer of boxing in Nigeria. In the late 1940’s, he founded the Paramount Boxing Club in Lagos.
This was a bold move but also a popular one. Throngs of youths came to the club to learn boxing skills under his guidance. The colonial authorities must have been delighted to see so many youths off the streets. Many of them went on to excel in various fields. Aficionados of the club include ‘Terrible’ Smart Alli, and Anthony ‘Poisonous Anthony’ Bolaji Oni, who also later in life became a Surulere resident, in his case at Adeniran Ogunsanya. He eventually became a successful businessman, pioneering the party rental business and becoming the chairman of Lagos Mainland local government. Members of the club cut across every social strata, religion and ethnicity. This in itself is a tribute to Peregrino’s natural bonhomie and egregious expansiveness.
The biggest achievement of the Paramount Boxing Club was to produce Nigeria’s first champions, Hogan ‘Kid” Bassey in 1957 and ‘Dick Tiger’ (Richard Ihetu) in 1963 [see previous issue]. Both were mentored by Nap Peregrino, which vaulted him out of history and into legend.
Nap Peregrino ended his civil service career at the local government level with the creation of Lagos State as a high-ranking officer in Epe Local Government. He was very much a part of the 1950s and 1960s social scene and was a regular at the well-known nightclubs. He was also a great enthusiast of photography and became a brilliant practitioner of the art. In retirement, he formed a commercial partnership with the renowned Ghanaian cricketer, Alex Quist (for some background on this, go to ‘African cup will reheat sibling rivalry’, Financial Times, January 20, 2006: www.ft.com/cms/s/2/508d3ace-89ea-11da-86d1-0000779e2340.html).
Married with four children (three boys and a girl), he died after a brief illness on 10 September 1985 at the age of 69 and was buried in Ikoyi cemetery after a funeral service at Tinubu Methodist Church.

The author is a prominent commentator on political affairs. He holds a Masters from York University in the UK.

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