Fatuma Zarika (left) is crowned the World Boxing Council (WBC) Super Bantamweight. Photo / SportpesanewsMention the word boxing and what instantly comes to mind is men, sweat, beatings, blows, blood, wounds and poundings. You’re likely to think of Mike Tyson, Floyd Mayweather, the Klitschko brothers, Anthony Joshua …the kind of people who take a beating as much as they can give one. It’s automatic that you’d shudder at the thought of a female boxer and no one would fault you. However, should it really be that way?
In your defense, you’ll probably remark that women boxers are also in short supply. Conjestina Achieng is the most prominent female boxer that comes to mind. She’s a living legend (indeed, when Kenyan female boxers are good, they are extremely good)
If you’re a woman reading this and you’re keen on sport and fitness, you ought to consider taking up boxing. Women tend to be more aggressive fighters in the sport and they do it with firm yet graceful resolve.
Don’t you think it would be great if we saw more Kenyan women joining the boxing fraternity?
Let’s take a quick look at the World Boxing Council (WBC) Super-bantamweight champion, Fatuma Zarika, who’s currently raring to make short work of number one contender, Catherine Phiri from Zambia during their December 2 title bout. Zarika made history, when she became the first Kenyan to win a WBC World title, dethroning Alicia Ashley through split points decision on October 1 last year at the Dort Federal Event Center in Flint Michigan.
She has humble beginnings in the sport.
Born in Nairobi, she grew up in the sprawling estates of Riruta satellite before moving to Mathare North after losing her mother. She was raised modestly and had to fend for herself from an early age. The turning point for her came when she watched Laila Ali in action. The thrill of seeing Ali punch opponents to submission drove her into boxing.
Fatuma Zarika trains at the Muscle Heath gym with his coach Edgar Sentongo. Photo / Philip Kamakya.
She aggressively pursued her ambitions in the sport and shes’s now international. She’s just returned from a two-month training stint in the United States of America facilitated by leading bookmakers, SportPesa, on Tuesday night ready to fight the Zambian who lost the WBC bantamweight crown earlier this year at the Carnivore Gardens in the Kenyan capital. It’s going to be a fight to watch but you can bet on it that she’ll win.
Why should more Kenyan women get in to boxing?
1. Release stress
Had a difficult day at work? Lots going on at home? Consider taking it out on the punching bags. It’s among the best way to release your anger and stress. Exercise releases endorphins, the body’s natural feel good hormone. Boxing makes you content and happier with yourself.
2. Burn that fat
The workout involved with boxing is high intensity. You burn a huge amount of calories during the session as well as after the work out! Consider that consistent low intensity work outs such as long distance running do not have this after training calorie burning effect. You also might want to know that you can burn up to 500 calories in one boxing training session.
Several fitness benefits of boxing exist including…
– Improved cardiovascular fitness – Stronger and more efficient heart and lungs over time. The boxing sessions push the cardiovascular system to the maximum forcing your body to adapt and therefore make your lungs and heart deliver increased oxygen to your muscles.
– Better muscular endurance – During the sessions, your muscles contract repetitively. As your muscles get used to this exercise for longer periods of time, they tire less easily.
– Improved muscle strength – You do boxing with your entire body. When you punching against a resistance, for example, a punch bag, your muscles are strengthened.
– Muscle power – Training builds up power within your muscles over time and this means your muscles can fire with more speed.
– Core stability – Boxing requires balance. This in turn fires the core muscles and strengthens them.
4. Tone Up
Following all the fitness benefits and the burning of calories, your body tones up. This makes your muscles look leaner and it pulls your body in tighter.
5. Self Esteem
When your body looks more toned and your body fat reduces, it has an automatic effect of increasing your self esteem. Looking good makes you feel good!
6. For Self Defense
Yes indeed, boxing could save your life. You learn a lot of self defense moves and these could come in handy one day when you are walking home alone at night or if you’re inadvertently under attack.
7. Fun and Social
Everyone knows that boxing is fun. It’s a truly fun sport. You’ll meet a lot of people in your classes and it’s different everytime. Kenyan boxing is growing and boxing gyms are beginning to hold fight nights. You get to watch live boxing and also meet lots of people interested in the sport.
Boxing has grown in Kenya
With all these benefits, the next question asked is how and where would one practice the sport and where are we locally.
Truth be told that for a long time, Kenyans have decried the falling standards of boxing in the country mainly resultant of underfunding by the national government and municipalities over the decades.
We had neighbourhood gyms in the past which were well equipped and staffed with proper trainers. These neighbourhood gyms also kept many youth out of trouble by channelling their energies into sport and away from other vices including crime while at the same time keeping them fit.
Kenyan flyweight boxer Benson Gicharu goes through a routine training for the London 2012 Olympics, in Kariobangi social hall, at a suburb east of capital Nairobi May 30, 2012.
The state of the sport was in dire straits and it wasn’t until recently that fortunes changed courtesy of sponsorship from gaming companies and without a doubt, Sportpesa. They have come in to fill the role that the sports ministry and similar departments at the county level had left vacant.
Today we have thousands of youth in proper kits who are actively training at refurbished centres thanks to the sponsorship from betting firms. At a higher level more young Kenyans, both men and women, are becoming professional athletes and earning a reasonable income from the sport. Again, this has been made possible by sponsorship from gaming companies.
It would be great to see more Kenyan women get in to the sport of boxing.