Bolstered by the exploits of pugilists like Joseph Akhasamba, Nasser Athumani, Ashira Oure, Conjestina Achieng’, and a growing number of activities, boxing is steadily making its presence felt in Kenya again.
The number of Kenyans who held regional and international belts in the past was at one time in the high.
Nasser Athumani was the (WBB) lightweight champion, Joseph Akhasamba held the WBB heavyweight title, Collins Sande Otieno claimed the East and Central Africa Professional Boxing Federation (ECAPBF) super bantam weight slot while Conjestina held fort the women’s WIBF and IBF middleweight titles.
Given that these titles do not carry as much international acclaim as those of World Boxing Council (WBC), World Boxing Organization (WBO) and International Boxing Federation (IBF), it is nonetheless telling the amount of talent that has been abound in the country.
For Kenyan boxers, these lesser-known titles are vital chips when knocking on the doors of the top three boxing organizations.
Last week’s win by Kenya’s Fatuma Zarika over Mexican Yamelith Mercado in the World Boxing Council (WBC) female world super-bantam weight title in Nairobi rekindled exploits of the past.
In the early eighties, when boxers like James Omondi, Ibrahim Bilali, Chris Sande and others held sway in East and Central Africa, Commonwealth and Olympics, Kenya was known for producing the region’s best boxers.
Thomas Wamburu, the proprietor of Punchline Boxing Promotions, however said the boxers fought at the amateur level and did not benefit from the financial rewards professional boxing offered.
“The tide is changing now and those who have curved a name for themselves in the sport are professional boxers. Kenya now has many boxers in the professional ranks and the number is growing steadily,” Wamburu told Xinhua on Sunday.
“More and more boxers are hanging the heavy amateur gloves for the lighter professional ones, the main reason being the financial implications involved,” he remarked.
Wamburu said the rate at which Kenya is represented at the amateur level is discouraging for many of them in terms of remuneration – that is why the paid ranks provide an attractive option.
A number of boxers who have played in amateur boxing for years have made the crossover, although some of them have been past their sell-by date, at over 35 years.
However, it is women’s boxing that has played a great role in getting attention to the sport.
There may not be many women boxers yet, but the few have shown great promise in a game that has only recently wholly accepted women to get involved.