Queen Zarika Survives Phiri Onslaught To Rule Nairobi Fight Night 2

Mar 24 - by Mutwiri Mutuota for SportPesa News

Kenyan boxing icon retains World Boxing Council women Super bantamweight crown 3-0 on unanimous decision after absorbing 10 rounds

WBC women Super Bantamweight champion, Fatuma 'Iron Fist' Zarika (centre), poses with SportPesa CEO, Captain Ronald Karauri (right), British icon and retired former WBC cruiserwight titleholder, Tony Bellew (second right) and her three coaches from the United Kingdom after holding on to her belt in Nairobi Fight Night 2 at KICC on Saturday, March 23. PHOTO/Brian Kinyanjui/SPN

  • In a rematch of their brutal encounter two years ago, Zarika was pushed all the way before she held on to her crown at a jam-packed dome set at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) grounds with the judges, Michael Neequaye, Fillemon Mweya and Irene Semakula returning 98-92 99-91 97-93 to spark wild celebrations among the home crowd on a hot Nairobi night
  • British boxing star and former WBC men Cruiserweight champion, Tony 'The Bomber' Bellew, who was part of the Zarika coaching team in the United Kingdom, arrived in venue in time to cheer on his new found friend as he continued his maiden tour to the country with Nairobi Women Representative, Esther Passaris as well as Captain Ronald Karauri the Chief Executive Officer of entertainment and technology business, SportPesa, who organised the festival among the other notable chief guests
  • When the dust settled down, it was time for Tanzania boxing sensation, Hassan 'Champez' Mwakinyo, who much had been said about pre-event, to make his ring debut in the country of his maternal grandmother's birth when he stepped to the ring to face seasoned Argentine, Sergio Eduardo 'El Tigre' Gonzalez in a non-title men Middleweight punch up

NAIROBI, Kenya- World Boxing Council (WBC) women Super bantamweight champion, Fatuma 'Iron Fist' Zarika crowned the second edition of Nairobi Fight Night by surviving a furious assault from Zambian challenger, Catherine Phiri to retain her title with a unanimous 3-0 victory on Saturday night.

In a rematch of their brutal encounter two years ago, Zarika was pushed all the way before she held on to her crown at a jam-packed dome set at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) grounds with the judges, Michael Neequaye, Fillemon Mweya and Irene Semakula returning 98-92 99-91 97-93 to spark wild celebrations among the home crowd on a hot Nairobi night.

Phiri was out first to the ageless chart buster 'Eye of the Tiger' by Survivor with Zarika keeping her challenger waiting for five minutes as the home crowd stood, wailing and screaming for her entrance, creating a cauldron inside the large tented dome that covered the ring.

Eventually, the home girl came out and the venue erupted and when the bell went for the opening round, both combatants seized each other up with the Zambian, who was keen on revenging her 3-0 defeat on unanimous decision on December 2, 2017 attacking Zarika.

As the fight progressed, it became clear that this was not going to be a walk in the park for either boxer, with Zarika edging the third, fifth and eighth rounds with Phiri enjoying the upper hand in the second, fourth, fifth and sixth.

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The tension inside the auditorium had reached fever pitch but at the start of the ninth, the champion sprung to life and invited chants of 'Zarika ua! (Zarika kill) from her faithful but Phiri refused to be knocked off her stride.

A roar went up before the start of the 10th when ring announcer, Maurice 'Mdomo Baggy' Ochieng' announced the scorecard after eight rounds as mandated by WBC rules that showed Zarika leading 3-0 (79-73, 79-73 and 77-75) on all the judges cards.

Phiri knew she had to go for the knockout and came charging, trying to open up Zarika's defence but the Kenyan held on to pull off another hard-fought victory that extended her record to 32 wins, 12 loses and two draws, as both fighters embraced at the end of another absorbing showdown.

Boxing royalty

Local boxing royalty mingled with other important guests to witness the spectacle unfold and none worked the energy at the packed venue as much as former World Boxing Union champion and pioneering Kenyan boxing queen, Conjestina 'Hands of Stone' Achieng' who was among the earliest guests at the KICC dome that sat a punishing attitude of 5,500 feet.

Invited to the party by the heir to her mantle Zarika, Achieng' was a picture of fine health as she rose to acclaim the adulation of a public that once filled venues to watch her fight in her heyday, having recovered from her well-documented mental illness.

"I'm glad to be back to reconnect with the boxing fraternity. I will be back in the ring hopefully in July and I intend to challenge for my former World Boxing Federation belt. I have a promoter and will start serious training very soon," Achieng' told SportPesa News as she took her pride of place.

Sat next to her was another Kenyan amateur boxing titan and two-time All Africa Games lightweight champion and Sydney 2000 Olympian, Suleiman Wanjau Bilali.

"I'm planning to return to boxing as a coach. Being here today means a lot to me as I have missed the game that I truly love," Bilali added as he soaked in the cracking action.

Reggae tunes

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Also present was the recently retired London 2012 and Rio 2016 Olympian and two-time Commonwealth Games men Flyweight medallist, Benson Njagiru Gicharu who opted to sit among the regular ticket holders, occasionally advancing close to the ring to fire instructions to the home fighters as well as former national champion Omar Kasongo among other luminaries from the sport. 

British boxing star and former WBC men Cruiserweight champion, Tony 'The Bomber' Bellew, who was part of the Zarika coaching team in the United Kingdom, arrived in venue in time to cheer on his new found friend as he continued his maiden tour to the country with Nairobi Women Representative, Esther Passaris as well as Captain Ronald Karauri the Chief Executive Officer of entertainment and technology business, SportPesa, who organised the festival among the other notable chief guests.

Legendary Kenyan rap artiste, Jackson 'Prezzo' Makini, the 'My City My Town' hitmaker was also in the house in a demonstration that popular allure of the Nairobi Fight Night jamboree that has transformed boxing entertainment in Kenya. 

The event officially got underway to a cracking atmosphere at 7:35pm local time (+3GMT) after the crowd somberly observed a moment of silence for the victims of Ethiopia Flight 302 tragedy as well as the late Zambian High Commissioner to Kenya Brenda Muntemba-Sichilembe as well as Nelson Sapi who was the Africa Boxing Union general secretary and chairperson of the Zambia Professional Boxing and Wrestling Control Board.

Ring action commenced in 7:40pm with a men Super lightweight six-round non-title affair but despite carrying the backing of supporters, Nicholas 'Makaveli' Mwangi fell to a second round stoppage via technical knock out to Tanzanian Iddi Mkwera with the referee stopping the contest when the Kenyan was subdued on the ropes by a flurry of punches to the head.

The decision did not go down well with the fans as they booed the winner and consoled the beaten home fighter who vehemently protested the verdict as he left the stage crestfallen.

An all-Kenyan women six-round Super Lightweight fight between Joyce Atieno and Sarah Achieng' followed which ended in another technical knockout win in the 1:27 minute of the second round for the latter.

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A pause in the action followed where a motivational video of Zarika's rise from the ghetto to boxing stardom was displayed on the five giant screens mounted atop the ring before a marathon set of popular reggae tunes played by reputed Kenyan deejay, Kris Darlin' of the Dohty Family fame belted from the speakers to fire up the dome as more people continued filing in.

The entrance of home favourite and Rio 2016 Olympian, Rayton 'Boom Boom' Okwiri, who was flanked by fellow uniformed Kenya Prisons Service officers, almost brought the tent down with deafening cheer as he came down to ring to the tune of Jamaican reggae music great, Bob Marley's eternal hit, 'Iron, Lion, Zion' to fight Pascal Bruno of Tanzania in an eight round men middleweight encounter.

WBC women Super Bantamweight champion, Fatuma Zarika (right) in action against Catherine Phiri in the Nairobi Fight Night 2 main event at KICC. PHOTO/SPN


Okwiri! Chants

'Okwiri! Okwiri! Okwiri!' they chanted when the 32 year-old was introduced for his fifth fight as a professional boxer and he did not take long to whip his magic as he set on the 40 year-old Bruno from the opening bell, forcing the Tanzanian to kiss the canvas with a knock down in the first half.

After the Tanzanian managed to somehow hang on in the second round, the contest was over within the opening minute of the third when Okwiri produced his second successive technical knockout success at Nairobi Fight Night following his second round stoppage of Ugandan Patrick Omote on September 8, 2018 much to the delight of his ecstatic followers.

Another entertainment interlude came up, with indigenous old and fresh Kenyan popular songs from various communities belting the air to hail the country's diversity as the screaming reached ear-splitting levels before the menu switched back to reggae.

When the dust settled down, it was time for Tanzania boxing sensation, Hassan 'Champez' Mwakinyo, who much had been said about pre-event, to make his ring debut in the country of his maternal grandmother's birth when he stepped to the ring to face seasoned Argentine, Sergio Eduardo 'El Tigre' Gonzalez in a non-title men Middleweight punch up.

A fifth round stoppage ended the career of the aging career boxer by Mwakinyo paved way to the main event of the night.

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