Friday at Kati Kati
World Boxing Federation (WBF) Africa title
Kenneth Odeke (UG) vs Sayed Abbas Nassab (Iran)
Sorry sports fans, Kassim Ouma and Joseph ‘Vegas’ Lubega’s reigns as Uganda boxing’s top dogs are almost up. With both fighters aging, dealing with many issues and being on the brink of retirement, someone else has to be the new face of the sport and carry boxing into the next generation.
Allow me to introduce you to Ugandan heavyweight pugilist Kenneth ‘Mr Bad News’ Odeke who takes on little known Sayed Abbas Nassab from Iran for a World Boxing Federation (WBF) Africa title at Kati Kati Restaurant on August 9.
In a sport that features a large number of battle hardened fighters, the 93 kg Odeke is considered boxing’s new Uganda hero. The Red Pepper sponsored fighter is just as humble as Lubega (his visit to the Namanve based publication’s headquarters last weekend almost went unnoticed), yet has Ouma’s dominance and is undefeated in all his professional fights. Odeke is coming off a huge a second round knockout of Tanzanian Suleiman Ashraf.
Odeke’s record had seen him finish off Kenyans James Omollo and Joseph Ayeko in the first and third rounds respectively prior to the win over the huge Tanzanian at MTN Arena Lugogo in April.
Odeke’ is in buoyant mood ahead of his clash with the Iranian pugilist. The fight that was supposed to be staged on June 28 was pushed forward after Sayed requested to have it rescheduled because of the Holy month of Ramadhan for the Moslem community
Although his fights have attracted television coverage on NBS TV and NTV coupled with big turn-ups of fans, Odeke hasn’t really been marketed as a mainstream sports superstar just yet an issue that his promoter Emmanuel Mwesigwa also a former boxer disputes; “I want to take Odeke to Caesar’s Palace (Las Vegas) because he is full of potential.”
“The first step was partnering with Red Pepper to make Odeke a World Champion,” Mwesigwa added.
“I was invited for a World Boxing Federation Convection in Germany in September where Odeke will definitely meet the likes of Evader Holyfield and Lennox Lewis.”
“He will interact with the best in the boxing business,” a confident Mwesigwa told Red Pepper.
“With partners like Red Pepper, am sure we shall make a World Champion here in Uganda and HBO and SuperSport will flock our country for broadcast rights.”
Odeke, who trains from different gyms around Kampala – Nsambya, Centenary Park and Kampala Boxing Club is set to battle for the vacant World Boxing Forum (WBF) Africa heavyweight title belt in a bout scheduled for 10 rounds.
The 22-year-old said he was in prime shape and couldn’t wait for the fight. “Even if they say the fight is today or tomorrow, I am ready,” said Odeke.
“I’m more focused on winning the title and I am promising all Ugandans that the belt will remain here.” Odeke, who hopes to emulate Lennox Lewis one day intimated to Red Pepper.
“He is not coming to Uganda for adventure but to fight one of the toughest heavyweights in the land,” Odeke a father to a 4-month Luke Lennox vowed.
His camp has bigger aspirations than would meet your eye; to better the Klitschko brothers. “After this fight, I will go for a bigger shot, at least someone who has faced the Klitschkos before,” Odeke said.
“I want to be better than Lewis Lennox one day.”
Odeke’s height has always been of advantage over his previous opponents but he is now facing an opponent slightly taller than him.
“What I know about him is that he is taller than me but he is in my weight,” the 6feet-5 inch boxer said of his opponent.
Given that Odeke’s defensive improvement was most evident against Tanzanian Suleiman Ashraf his best opponent (by far) to date, it seems plausible that he has just entered the elite, championship phase of his career.
With 3 professional fights under his belt, the former MUBS Accounting student has progressed at a fairly remarkable rate considering his brief—yet still successful—amateur background, which consisted of fights in the national novices, secondary schools championships with City High in Kololo and the national boxing championships.
That the bulk of Odeke’s experience has come as a professional also suggests that he has vast reserves of untapped potential. This palpable sense of promise that might be the most tantalizing aspect of his brief career arc for a boy who started boxing at a tender age of five.
Odeke, thus far, has simply gone about his business and won fights. His willingness to fight the best as a response to criticism is admirable, and those traits, if he continues to nurture them, are what will ultimately fuel his stardom.
The fight will be screened live on nation television (NTV). It has been sponsored by Red Pepper, Mogas, Hotel Africana, Boston Restaurant and Jomayi Property Consultants.
Uganda Boxing Union has sanctioned the fight that will also see middleweight Ugandan Haruna Ddiba “Bana Bana” take on another Iranian Govad Zovarhend for the World Boxing Council (WBC) Middle East title while Omungolia Musitafa takes on Juma Waiswa in a national title contest.