Okwiri says turning pro ‘was a dream’ ahead of debut

Rayton Okwiri poses during the weigh-in for the Fox Sports Promotion fight card in Nairobi ...
Rayton Okwiri poses during the weigh-in for the Fox Sports Promotion fight card in Nairobi on Friday. PHOTO/Charity Wanja

Olympian and top Kenyan amateur Rayton Okwiri says it is a dream to join the professional ranks as he prepares for his first fight against Salehe Mkalekwa of Tanzania in Nairobi on Saturday

Okwiri’s debut in a six-round fight in the paid ranks is the most exciting under card in the programme where two World Boxing Association (WBA) Pan African titles will be on the line at the Crowne Plaza Hotel.

Home boxer, Nick Otieno who has an impressive record of 30 wins, 0 draws and 11 losses in 41 bouts takes on Haji Juma of Tanzania (17-5-9) for the vacant WBA Pan-African Super Flyweight (52.16kg) belt in the first title bout.

Compatriot Gabriel Ochieng (16-1-5) will vie for the Super- Bantamweight (55.34kg) against another Tanzanian Fadhill Majiha over 12 rounds (19-7-4) as the Kenyan seeks to topple his more experienced opponent.

“When I qualified for the Olympics in Yaoundé I thanked God because my dream was to represent Kenya at the Games. When I came back Rio, Fox Africa looked for me and told me that they want to sign me as professional boxer.

“We talked and I felt that it was a good deal. It’s a dream for every boxer to turn professional,” Okwiri said during the weigh-in for the event promoted Fox Sports.

His Super-Welterweight fight will be the third in the five-bout bill in the event dubbed ‘Kenya versus Tanzania’ with home pugilist Michael Nyawade taking on Fred Sayuni in the Super-Featherweight in an 8-round affair.

Another Kenyan amateur debuting in the pro ranks, Dennis Okoth will slug it out against Salehe Mkalekwa in a six-round Super-Lightweight contest.

Okwiri who had qualified for the Rio Olympics Games by winning gold at the 2016 African Boxing Olympic Qualification Tournament signed a one-year contract with Fox Sports Africa Boxing with a training allowance of USD1500 (Ksh155,635.75) per month.

“They told me that they watched me fight during the Olympics and they were impressed by my skills and that’s why they wanted to sign me.

“They spoke with the Kenya Boxing Federation (KBF) president John Kameta and I saw that what they told me made a lot of sense,” Okwiri who leaves a huge hole in the Kenyan national team added.

“This is a beginning of a boxing nation Kenya, we are bringing back where boxing used to be. We are proud of Fox TV, brothers from America and England for coming out to promote boxing.

“I will be the tournament supervisor and it will be good to see our boxers earn some cash,” former Makadara MP and Boxing Chairman Reuben Ndolo said.

Okwiri had a glittering 10-year amateur career that started with victory in the 2006 Zone5 African U20 Championships in Nairobi before he qualified to the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, India where his charge ended with a preliminary round 8-3 ( previous straight scoring system) loss to Scotsman Aston Brown.

Okwiri, a multiple national champion who was fighting for Kenya Prisons Service fared marginally better in Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games when he was eliminated in the second round via a 3-0 loss to Thulani Mbenge of South Africa.

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Story By Charity Wanja
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