Big Boo, from Senegalese wrestler to star of the small screen in France

Big Boo from Senegalese wrestler to star of the small

Amadou Papis Konez has as many nicknames as stories to tell. If he started in the Senegalese wrestling arenas as “Rocky Balboa”, the native of Dakar, who is preparing for the 35th edition of Fort Boyard, a French television program, now goes by the name “Big Boo”.

Physically, Amadou Papis Konez has none of the sympathy that his nickname, “Big Boo,” could evoke. His red t-shirt, tense with muscles, no longer manages to hide the Senegalese colossus who flirts with measuring 1.90 meters and weighing 140 kilos on the scale.

Today, it’s hard to believe that he was once nicknamed “the skeleton” by his brothers. Born in 1972 in Dakar, the youngest of a family of six children, he remained the most frail for a long time. “ I never went to the beach because I was too skinny, or I kept my pants on », says Amadou with a smile. For him, this thinness was almost a blessing in disguise: he would not have liked to be a muscle man in the small room he shared with his entire family, except his mother. “ We couldn’t afford more space.Amadou breathes. It’s still complicated to talk about it today. »

Struggle as a way out

Between two photos of his workouts that he scrolls through on his phone, “Big Boo” confides half-heartedly that he even had to rely on renting video cassettes to help his mother. He then likes to imagine himself as a miniature version of his father, now deceased, who was constantly traveling to “ buy reels and resell them to cinemas from Dakar “. On these same reels, he discovered the exploits of Chuck Norris, Rambo, and even Rocky Balboa, whose pseudonym he adopted to make it his fighting name.

However, nothing predestined him to use his fists. Ever since he was little, Amadou has preferred to have the ball at his feet. No chance, ” football doesn’t pay » in Senegal, where “ the struggle is [au pays] what football is in Brazil », he regrets. “ Here, as soon as you leave the house, you start to struggle! It’s a tradition. » Amadou ends up swapping the football field for the wrestling mat and bodybuilding, then becomes a sports coach at the Olympique Club in the capital – “ it was the easiest door “, he says – before flying to Switzerland where he can earn more money and help his family. “ What I earn by coaching a student in Switzerland, I earned in one month in Senegalwelcomes Amadou. And then, for wrestling, I didn’t want to stay in Senegal, because it would have taken me ten years before making big fights. »

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Here, the wrestler does not hesitate to grab his opponents with his bare hands to make them fall. “ In Switzerland, it’s like in Senegal, we grab by the pants and lift “, he said, laughing. He was already forty years old when he began practicing the discipline professionally, an age close to that of wrestlers’ retirement. Which does not prevent him from fighting in Geneva, or even from praising his qualities on social networks, where “Rocky Balboa” assures, pell-mell, “ I will kill you all “, ” the gladiator is here, ready to disfigure you “, or ” who loves peace prepares for war “.

And the war he leads above all against Bombardier, crowned King of the Senegalese arenas at only 23 years old. In 2015, a first fight was organized between the two wrestlers, immediately banned by the CNG, the governing body of Senegalese wrestling. “ Not just anyone can get up one fine day, without having proven themselves in the arena, to challenge the wrestling champions of Senegal », Explained Thierno Kâ, communications manager for the structure, at the time. Words that make Amadou’s enemy. Although he has since lost his legal action, the athlete is not giving up: “ someone wanted to harm me “, he complains.

His rivalry with Bombardier finally exploded in May 2018, during an MMA (mixed martial arts) fight – which took place this time – where he only needed 70 seconds to knock out a Rocky Balboa at a discount. With his body in disarray and his ego with it, the native of Dakar insists that he was “ marabouté “. “ I don’t want to focus on the struggle. I’m moving forward in my life, it’s all behind me. My dream is to coach », the fifty-year-old still consoles himself, yet still waiting for his return match.

From France to Hungary

If he previously imagined himself as a gladiator, Amadou instead became a jailer. In 2020, his stature opened the doors to the French game show Fort Boyard. “ I heard about a casting on the advice of a friend and I went for it without much conviction.remembers Amadou. One day, after several meetings, production called me. I was at the beach with my six-year-old son, who loves the show. He was overjoyed when he heard the news and kept telling me that this role was made for me.. »

Responsible for ringing the gong and guarding the prisons, he plays the mute role of “Big Boo”, supposed to terrify the contestants on the game show. With his beard dyed red and his chest only covered with shoulder pads, the heavyweight fights every summer in the fort’s cage. It is in this arena that he faces the candidates, to whom he sometimes has to bow – like against Cédric Doumbé, MMA fighter, or Yoann Huget, former winger for Stade Toulousain and the XV of France. But this time, without rancor: “ Fort Boyard is an incredible opportunity for me, it rocked my childhood and it gives me the impression that nothing is impossible. »

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On the small French screen since the 31st season of the show, the wrestler is preparing this year to spend several weeks alongside Père Fourras and Passe-Partout. First, for the 35th edition of the French game show, then for its Hungarian adaptation, which returns to the screen after its failed start in 2000. A first for Amadou: “ It continues this year! »

If he still hopes to push his career into action cinema, “ like Sylvester Stallone », the hothead has now armed himself with patience. Little Amadou dreamed of leaving home, and he succeeded. Paying homage to your father, bringing your mother to Europe for the first time, living from her struggles… All the boxes are now checked, except one: “ Save enough money to go to Mecca with my mom. »