It’s not difficult to figure out why Abdoulie Ndow alias Hoyantaan chose wrestling over other professions. Wrestling runs in his DNA. His father was a local wrestling champion and his stepfather, Alieu Gaye is still remembered as one of the greatest wrestlers in his home village of Balangharr in the North Bank Region in the 80’s.
Though Hoyantaan was inspired by his father and stepfather to pursue wrestling, his family sent him to an auto garage to learn driving because of his hot-headedness as a kid. After acquiring his driving license, he became a commercial vehicle driver. After a while, Hoyantaan left driving and went into bakery. That new adventure lasted just a few months.
“I couldn’t stay long at the bakery. The job was slow for me and I always argued with my bosses,” he says.
Hoyantaan had set his eye on wrestling. His uncle, Ndongo Ceesay noticed his love for the sport and decided to guide him to become a professional wrestler. After an intensive training supervised by Ndongo, Hoyantaa triumphed in his first bout as a rookie wrestler. Wrestling fans noticed from that fight that he was a star that was meant to rise.
“I knew he would be a great wrestler,” says Alagie Cham, a wrestling commentator at West Coast Radio. “I’ve covered most of his bouts in the provinces. He’s a technical wrestler.”
Hoyantaan asserted his superiority in a ten-wrestler competition which he won. In his home village of Balangharr, he struggled his way out as an underdog in a star-studded championship to win the hearts and minds of the villagers.
“He was always the center of attention. Whenever he appeared, he impressed the crowd,” Alagie says.
Slowly but steadily, Hoyantaan began attracting more attention and a huge following. Victories over Mboran, Tass Sa-Yaram, Gambien and Yaya Jammeh set the pace for his national stardom.
When he had the opportunity to make history by taking on Leket Mu Barra for the crown, Hoyantaan did not disappoint his fans. He won the fight and was crowned the King of the Gambian Arena.
“That was a great fight for me. Leket was a champion and facing him for the crown demanded special preparations.”
His manager Ousman Jobe described him as a dedicated and talented wrestler. “Since I started managing him some years ago, he has proven to be a warrior. He is respectful and he’s always hungry for success.”
Today, Hoyantaan is not only winning inside the arena, but he’s also winning the financial battle outside the arena. He has become one of the highest paid wrestlers in the history of Gambian wrestling. His last fight earned him a fee of D120,000. He’s also enjoying sponsorship and endorsement deals from private companies. Earlier this year, the 29-year-old was named the best local athlete of the year by the Sports Journalists Association of The Gambia.
Hoyantaan is currently training ahead of his big fight with Senegalese wrestler Baye Mandionne in June at the Independence Stadium in Bakau.