Congolese boxer accused of casting spells to win matches

A Congolese boxer has been accused of using black magic to overpower his opponent and weaken the referee during a grudge match in Zambia.

Lubandi Mamba Mulozi, a champion fighter from the Katanga province of the Democratic Republic of Congo, walked into the ring covered in white powder and carrying charms, after having boasted that he "will beat [his opponent Willie] Nkandu and carry his wife with me to Congo so that I can display her as a trophy of my victory". Mr Nkandu complained that each time Mr Mulozi swung a cloth, he fell over.

He described feeling overpowered before a single blow had been struck. "Every time I turned, I felt something hitting me, like sand," he added.

The fight was finally stopped when a referee collapsed and had to be carried from the ring.

The Zambian officials who stopped the fight said: "It is believed that magic was used - we are supposed to protect life."

But Mr Mulozi insisted he had not used any black magic, only "his own powers" and demanded a rematch to give him a chance to avenge his brother, who broke his collar bone in a boxing match against Mr Nkandu in 1996.

Before the fight, Mr Mulozi had said he wanted to bring a coffin to Zambia to take home Mr Nkandu's body after the fight, but could not find a way to carry it from his home in Congo to Zambia.

The crowd, many of whom had bet on the outcome of the match, were unimpressed with the antics and accused both fighters and the referees of having fixed the match.

Accusations of black magic are common in west and southern Africa, and appear frequently in sport. Mpho "Silverfox" Tshiambara, a South African boxer, fell out with his promoter, Rob McLeod, after he accused him of relying on black magic, or muti - which in Zulu means medicine - while in the ring.

Mr McLeod had said that Mr Tshiambara used to call his muti man on a mobile phone before each fight and would often begin vomiting if the magic had gone wrong. Elsewhere, Zimbabwean footballers often refuse to return to their changing rooms at half time for fear of walking through a "losing spell" that had been cast in the corridors. Footballers still talk of the Africa Cup of Nations tournament in 1992, when the Ivory Coast's sports minister was reported to have hired witch doctors to help the national team in the final.

In Britain, police suspect that a form of black magic or voodoo was involved in the murder of an unidentified boy whose body was found in the Thames in 2001. The rituals can involve human sacrifice and the use of charms and spells to ward off evil and protect the wearer. In its most benign form, it uses plants and herbs in alternative medicines.