Barry Silah @obel_barry
Last year brought about the great variance in boxing development across Kenya. From the domestic league to national events, there was always something to ponder at. One thing was evident though; the fans began appreciating the sport despite the challenges it went through. For Kenyan boxing fans, the final quarter of the year was the real climax given the calibre of fights witnessed around.
The biggest talk of town however was reserved for two title fights held in Nairobi in December, which saw locals Fatuma Zarika and James Onyango emerge victorious in front of a fervent homecrowd. The bouts organised and promoted by Bigger than Life Entertainment of USA and backed by World Boxing Council saw an upsurge of interest only accommodated back in the glory days.
Female sensation Zarika nicknamed the ‘Iron Fist’ was taken to the end in the WBC super bantamweight category but stole the show against gritty Zambian Catherine Phiri. However despite the few highs, which also saw USA-based boxing wonder-boy Rayton Okwiri winning two professional meets as a debutant, not much in terms of significance took place.
Many boxers failed to get fights as a result of ever-problematic concerns with fake promoters who failed to honour contractual obligations. This put the Kenya Professional Boxing Commission (KPBC) under Hillary Alila under the spotlight for failing to rein in on the crooks.
At the same time KPBC was under attack for failure to organise enough meets for their stable thus boxers struggling to make ends meet after putting in the hard work at gym sessions.
Lack of sponsorship was also hit the top boxing administrators as they struggled to run events as would be desirable. In what is increasingly becoming an expensive sport, KPBC had to shelve or put off some bouts for lacking funds even after putting in requests including to Government.
Indeed even the continental qualifiers that were held in Congo Brazzaville in August had challenges due to lack of proper preparedness thus the country posting abysmal results despite the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games looming. In the amateur ranks, competition for the umpteenth time was narrowed to Kenya Police ‘Chafua Chafua’ and Kenya Defence Forces (KDF).
Despite Boxing Association of Kenya gallantly striding on with the 16-team league, there have been challenges especially with the non-sponsored teams. Only five teams are fully sponsored while the rest have had to dig into their own pockets. Kenya Police won the closely coveted title against rivals KDF who incidentally had clinched it a year earlier.
The duo has been sparring for almost a decade and not so much in terms of competition has been forthcoming with only Kenya Prisons attempting the feat. Very few boxers, both female and male, are lately coming through from the amateur level to the paid ranks, which continue to paint a sorry state of the game. However, on the bright side, 2017 saw boxers feted by President Uhuru Kenyatta on Jamhuri Day for their service.