Nairobi. Before Kenya’s title holder Fatuma “Iron Fist” Zarika agreed for a rematch against Mexican Yamileth “Yeimi” Mercado for the World Boxing Council (WBC) world female super bantamweight belt, she exercised a rematch clause in their contract.
Zarika had chalked a split-point decision against the Mexican on September 8, 2018, in their first meeting in Nairobi before their rematch on November 16, last year in Chihuahua, Mexico.
Zarika lost the rematch in a unanimous decision but her efforts to secure another bout against the Mexican failed to bear fruit.
The 35-year-old Zarika, who had secured work at Round 10 Boxing Gymnasium in Dubai as an instructor, thought the move would help shape her ahead of the rematch with Mercado, having not produced her best in Mexico.
Then Covid-19 hit when Zarika was trying to settle at her new work place in Dubai with everything coming to a stand-still.
“Efforts to secure a rematch proved futile as I was taken around in circles with Covid-19 lockdown in Dubai also proving a challenge,” said Zarika, who out of frustrations, decided to hang up her gloves and focus on her other businesses.
“I just didn’t want to hear anything about going back to the ring to fight again.”
However, it just took slightly a month ago for Tanzanian Kelvin Twissa, a director at Jackson Group, to convince Zarika to don her gloves again. Twissa formerly worked for betting company SportPesa as head of marketing in Nairobi.
SportPesa once sponsored and managed Zarika, and Twissa wanted the Kenyan to feature in his promotion in Dar es Salaam last Friday.
Initially, Zarika’s featherweight bout against Patience Mastara from Zimbabwe was a non-title bout lasting eight rounds.
However, a touring World Boxing Federation President Howard Goldberg would upgrade it to a world title after the previous holder vacated it.
Zarika would then give Mastara some boxing lessons before securing a unanimous decision victory.
“It took a bit of convincing to get her back to the ring once again,” said Twissa, who got in touch with Zarika towards the end of September.
“It kind of shocked me when she told me that she was focusing on other things in Dubai.”
Twissa said she advised Zarika to critically think about her decision since she still had what it takes to become a world champion again.
It wasn’t about money
“I told her this was an opportunity to get back and all I needed was her to give it one last run,” explained Twissa, adding that It wasn’t about money but the beast Zarika is in boxing.
“No female boxer is rated higher than her on the continent...it just needs a little spanking to awake a sleeping giant. Zarika has the heart of a champion and I know her not just as a sportswoman but as a sister too,” said Twissa.
Twissa said becoming the first African woman to win a WBC title and defending in thrice has inspired many young girls on the continent.
“Zarika is still mentally, emotionally and physically strong and has a couple of years in her gloves to win more titles,” said Twissa.
Zarika now hopes her new found zeal and inspiration will spur her to other major wins.
“I just want to thank God for the second chance. I will go back to Dubai to continue with my training and work,” said Zarika, who hopes to fight again for a WBC belt soon.