Z: HoneyBoy Zimba

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Honey Boy Zimba

Nigel The Warrior

The Ebony Hercules Ernal Stevens started out wrestling as Nigel the Warrior in the early sixties before taking on his less aggressive and more exotic monicker. 

He was consistently billed from Freetown, Sierra Leone, but we have our doubts. An apparently authorative biography in the Coventry Evening Telegraph (March 1970) revealed he was born in Jamaica, one of twelve brothers brought who helped their parents run a pig farm. We can’t confirm that, and most secondary sources follow the promoter’s hype that he was born in Sierra Leone, worked on a liner and jumped ship in Britain. That’s the romantic version, we will leave you to make your mind up.

As a youngster his main sporting interest were said to be boxing and later weight-lifting. Now that is believable, those muscles don’t make themselves you know.

If we follow the Jamaican version of his childhood there is a genuine Sierra Leone connection as Ernal Stevens travelled to the West African country in 1956 for film work and stayed there for five years. It was while he was living in Sierra Leone that he took up wrestling. He was no Zimba in those days, of course, though claimed he had played a character of that name in one of his films.

Having arrived in Britain he settled in Manchester and pursued his wrestling interest at the Y.M.C.A. Working as a car mechanic during the day Ernal turned professional. Precisely when we cannot tell, but certainly by 1962 Nigel the Warrior was a name on the poster. The name change to Honey Boy Zimba came soon afterwards, and we find it for the first time in May,1963, though Warrior Nigel persisted in a handful of halls until the 1970s.

The Grass skirt, muscles on top of muscles, the colourful persona, the red and white beads around his neck all combined to make Honey Boy Zimba one of the most popular heavyweights of the sixties and seventies. He impressed wrestling enthusiast Main Mask who believed promoters could have done more to give him a higher profile, “His style was built around strength and power moves and he was well equipped with the 'lethal' Head Butt which all his opponents were anxious to avoid! On occasions he shared top billing, but he never seemed to win. I saw him dominate in some contests with his foe clearly struggling against his power,then it would end as a draw, as those were the orders."

At 15 stone 7 pounds but only 5'7", Honey Boy was ideally placed to take on middleweights and up, and regularly faced Giant Haystacks. Apart from the aforementioned Head Butt he could deliver a very effective dropkick at speed, much to the surprise of fans who did not expect a man of his stature to spring into action.

Zimba was one of the most animated of heavy breathers in the Czeslaw mould, and frequently seen in tag action: as a founder of the Black Knights with Ezzard Hart;  then alongside Masambula, Lenny Hurst as well as a memorable World of Sport bout with Butcher Bond against Haystacks and John Quinn; and even in action with Charlie Fisher.

One of the most familiar figures on television wrestling Zimba made at least 69 appearances over a twenty year priod beginning in 1964.

Many anecdotes related to other wrestlers seem to end up "... and so we all went off late night drinking with Honey Boy Zimba." 

On his retirement from the ring around 1986 Honey Boy Zimba continued to run a public house on Northumberland Road, Manchester. 

Honey Boy Zimba, born 10th August 1936, died 1995.

Page added 10/07/2022