19 February 2013

Uganda: Is Hot Prospect Odeke Ready for an African Title?

In the aftermath of his third consecutive knockout victory, Ugandan heavyweight Kenneth Odeke is being flaunted for an African title shot but it may be a step too early, writes Moses Mugalu.

Last Friday, unbeaten Odeke (3-0,3kos) stopped Tanzanian journeyman Ashraf Suleiman in the second round of their scheduled 10-round non-title bout at Lugogo Indoor Stadium.

And Emmanuel Mwesigwa, one of the heavyweight fighter's promoters, has disclosed that they want Odeke to challenge for the African title in his next contest.

"We plan to stage the fight either in March or May. The search for an opponent is already on and promising," Mwesigwa told The Observer today.

Mwesigwa claimed that they are finding it difficult to get opponents for Odeke because 'he's become the most feared fighter in the region."

Ideally, challenging for the national and regional titles first would make a good gradual progress for Odeke. But with just three professional fights and a not-so-successful amateur career, pundits argue that Odeke is being rushed and could harshly blow up an otherwise great start in the paid ranks.

"He's a good talent and has potential but it's too early for him to go for the African title. First, he needs to work on his body and speed," says Phillip Corry, a veteran boxing writer.

"And, if you look at the level of opposition he has faced so far, he needs to get more tested before he steps forward for a continental title," he remarks.

Ironically, Odeke's victims include least regarded Kenyans James Ololo (first round ko) and Kenneth Ayolo (3rd ko) in his earlier fights. While Odeke has the rare skill that is rare in heavyweight division (where power and aggression dominate) he still harness it with his height advantage through gradual growth.

Another senior boxing writer and promoter fears that if not carefully managed Odeke could end up like Badru "Mr Crush" Lusambya.

Former African champion Lusambya "Mr Crush" (coincidently managed by Mwesigwa) piled up deceptive victories at home against average opponents but crushed when it mattered most against elite foes. Meanwhile Mwesigwa says they plan to stage their next Uganda Boxing Union (UBU) sanctioned fights at the more affluent Hotel Africana in a bid to attract the rich and corporate fans.

Previously, two UBU cards have been staged at Lugogo MTN arena, where one of fights involving Zebra Ssenyange and Haruna Banabana turned chaotic with rowdy fans hauling objects into the ring.

"We want to raise the profile of boxing to attract the rich. Our last fights attracted members of the Kwagalana group (city tycoons) and we don't want to keep them in low end venues," Mwesigwa explained.

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