It was dubbed Nairobi Fight Night, and for all intents and purposes it lived up to its billing.
All eyes late Saturday Night were at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre where boxing lovers in their numbers thronged to witness a spectacle.
Veteran local pugilist Fatuma Zarika,33, and fearless young Mexican starlet Yamileth Mercado met in a sizzling duel at the well decked COMESA Grounds Arena in a 10-round slug-fest for the WBC Super bantamweight belt.
The Kenyan nicknamed “Iron Fist” could not have expected such a stern test against an ambitious opponent in the shape of 20-year-old “Yeimi”.
Zarika had to pull out all stops and tricks in the bag to stay alive and reclaim her belt much to the excitement of the partisan home crowd. Mercado was effective in ring movement and punch execution.
The skilfull Mexican girl pinned Zarika to the ropes and scored points in the early exchanges. However, the much-experienced Zarika took the fight to a tiring Mercado in the final three rounds with stinging jabs and hooks in the event graced by Sports cabinet secretary Rashid Echesa and Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja thus defending the title after split decision favoured her; 94-96/97-93/99-91.
“I am happy to have retained the title especially because of great home support. This was an intense fight against a rising star that I am proud to have faced,” said Zarika after the bout officiated by WBC accredited South African referee Simon Mukadi.
Meanwhile Kenya’s boxing darling Rayton Okwiri was in his own class after he destroyed his Ugandan opponent Patrick Amote with a flurry of jabs to send him sprawling to the canvas thrice inside two rounds in the welterweight fight.
The decorated Kenya Prisons Constable was declared winner through technical knockout by the judges as his speed and power took him head and shoulder over his opponent. The 32-year-old US-based Okwiri nicknamed “Champ” never gave his opponent a chance to manoeuvre as he pummelled Amote from all quarters. “I knew his weaknesses and exploited them fully because I went in well prepared.”
In the all-Kenyan affair pitting Fred Nyakesa and George Onyango, controversy was palpable after judges declared Onyango winner in the lightweight bout by split decision. The 21-year-old had technique but was clearly outmatched in the endurance bit against the powerful 38 year old Nyakesa in the six round event.