Former Olympian Rayton Okwiri eyes IBF title at Africa Boxing 18

Kenyan Olympian Rayton Okwiri will fight Emmany Kalombo in Johannesburg on June 30 for the International Boxing Federation [IBF] junior middleweight title, and Okwiri says he will take his opponent ‘to the school of boxing’.

Having spent last year training in the USA with stars like Demetrius Andrade, Okwiri is confident about facing Kalombo [15-1-0] from the Democratic Republic of Congo, who has vowed to “chop him and put him [Okwiri] to sleep “.

Okwiri [7-0-1]surprised by the comment, told ESPN: “He said that? It’s easy to talk only with your mouth, but actions speak louder than words. I don’t have much to say, but what I know is that I’m taking him to the school of boxing.

“I’m watching his fights – he has been fighting people who are not elites. I respect everyone who steps foot in the ring, but to be honest, Emmany Kalombo – we are not on the same level. He is going to see different things on Thursday the 30th. “

Kalombo was last in action this past April, defeating Malawi’s Chikondi Makawa via third-round TKO in Soweto, while Okwiri’s last fight was in October last year when he knocked out John Serunjogu of Uganda in a middleweight non-title fight in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania.

The Kenyan has the experience to back up his confidence. Okwiri, 36, represented his country at the Rio 2016 Olympics, before turning professional in 2017. He won his opening bout in Brazil, before losing – though he, in the manner of defeated boxers everywhere, says he won – his second bout against Morocco’s Mohammed Rabii.

A lingering sense of injustice after his defeat to Rabii inspired him to officially make the move into professional boxing.

He said of his road to Rio: “My journey to the Rio Olympics in 2016 was not just easy. At first, when I entered the national team when I was still 19, 20 years, I used to go to the Olympic qualifiers and I didn’t qualify.

“Then I became the African champion as an amateur, so I could go to the Olympics. When I went to the Olympics, my first fight, I fought Russia [Andrey Zamkovoy] and I beat him.

“[Then], I met with a boxer from Morocco – he was the world champion at that time. I beat him, but the IBA [International Boxing Association] were not fair. There are some robberies, so they didn’t give me [victory in] my fight with Mohammed Rabii of Morocco. “

Okwiri is technically employed by the Kenya Prison Service as a sergeant, having been promoted after his 2019 African Boxing Union [ABU] middleweight title win, but has been released from general duties, at least until he hangs up his gloves.

He explained: “To be honest, I can say I’m one of the luckiest boxers in Kenya, because my employer – Kenya Prisons – has released me full-time. I just concentrate on boxing.

“The only job that I do full-time is boxing, but when I retire from boxing, maybe that will be the time that I start doing my general duties at Kenya Prisons.”

Okwiri’s ultimate goal is to get back to the US, though he said that he returned to Kenya to take over the running of his car sales business, because no-one else can do it correctly, apparently.

He said: “When I am away, they don’t run my business the way that I do, so that is why I came back here – so I can manage it – but when the time comes, I am going to go for the bigger boys in America. “

Although he has ambitions to move back to the US and take on big title fights, Okwiri, who has been boxing since his uncle inspired him as a child, is content with the career he has had.

He reflected: “As we are talking right now, I can say I’m living my dream. When I started boxing, there was a time when I was saying: ‘One day, I want to go to the Olympics.’ I went to the Olympics.

“When I started boxing, I was saying: ‘One day, I want to be an African champion.’ Yes, I became an African champion, because I beat some good boxers.

“Now that I’ve got this opportunity, I am going to prove to the world that I am still there. I remember in 2014, I was one of the best boxers in the world in IBA Boxing. I’m still the same. “

Okwiri is aiming to become the first Kenyan male boxer to hold a major world title. Fatuma Zarika became the first Kenyan of any gender to do so in 2016, when she beat Jamaica’s Alicia Ashley to the WBC super-bantamweight title.

“I will be [the champion]because as I am telling you right now, I am fully prepared and I’m ready, “said Okwiri.

“I’m just waiting for the day to come to go and prove myself. I have been fighting the best boxers in the world. I’m hoping that with the experiences I have right now, I am going to handle him. [Kalombo] in a good manner. “

ESPN Africa Boxing 18 – Fight Card

Main card

– Main event: IBF International Junior Middleweight Title, 12 rounds: Emmany Kalombo (DR Congo, 15-1-0) v Rayton Okwiri (Kenya, 7-0-1)

– Co-main: Welterweight, 10 rounds: Thulani Mbenge (SA, 18-1-0) v Idd Pialari (Tanzania, 30-7-1)

– Super Flyweight, 8 rounds: Sikho Nqothole (SA, 14-2-0) v Selemani Bangaiza (Tanzania, 12-7-0)

– Welterweight, 8 rounds: Jabulani Makhense (SA, 12-1-0) v Paul Kamanga (DR Congo, 23-2-0)

– Super Lightweight, 8 rounds: Gift Bholo (SA, 9-11-0) v Hannock Phiri (Malawi, 14-0-1)

Under card

– Junior Middleweight, 4 rounds: Sinethemba Blom (debut) v Mikaeel van Doorsen (1-1-0)

– Junior Lightweight, 6 rounds: Cayden Truter (4-0-0) v Khanyisani Mbokazi (2-3-1

The action will be broadcast live on Thursday June 30 at 19:00 [CAT] on ESPN (DStv 218, Starsat 248), and selected international broadcasters including ESPN across Latin America.


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