New Vision (Kampala)

Uganda: Odeke Eyes Major Boxing Honours

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KENNETH Odeke's childhood dream was to become an accountant. Indeed, that dream seemed to be crystalizing when he enrolled at Makerere University Business School.

But two semesters into the course, he couldn't pay his tuition. That's when he decided to switch to boxing. He has so far knocked out all his three opponents.

New Vision Sport caught up with Odeke and the heavyweight opened up on his world title dream.

What does it feel like training for two months only to have your fight postponed?

I should have had my fourth fight on Friday. I trained hard and was in shape. It should have been another knock-out. Then I got this bad news. It was disappointing.

My fans had promised to turn up in big numbers. But nevertheless I haven't lost heart. A new date has been set. I have even resumed training.

I see no Ugandan amongst your opponents. Are you avoiding local opposition?

The truth is that Ugandan boxers fear fighting me. Many of them have been approached, but none is ready to face me. I have ended up against opposition from Kenya and Tanzania.

These were fighters much more experienced than me but I still beat them.

One of them was Ashraf Sulaiman. He was not only heavier than me by 13 kilograms, but was also much more experienced.

Everyone was scared he was going to have me for dinner.

The hall went silent when he floored me with a left hook in the first round. It was the first time in my career that I was kissing the canvas.

Few heavyweights are floored and recover. Good enough I was fit. I managed to rise then finished him off with three rights.

You sound so passionate about boxing. Who is your role model?

Lennox Lewis. That's my guy. You've certainly have not forgotten the night he knocked out Mike Tyson. Interestingly, he is 6ft 5in just like me.

I watch a lot of his fights and have adopted his fighting style of a left jab and straight right. My right is lethal just like Lewis.

You can ask my opponents or sparring partners. If my right connects and you remaining standing, then I could as well quit!

Do you see yourself scaling similar heights like Lewis?

Of course. I will one day become a world champion.

How do you rate yourself against the current heavyweight cream?

You must be talking about the Klitschko brothers. It is just a matter of time and I will be able to beat them. You remember how Lewis outclassed Vitali Klitschko in 2003.

That's exactly how I would also handle any of the brothers. I could be the person to send them into retirement.

For a person who has only had three fights, you sound too confident.

The number of fights don't matter. The most important thing is that I am good. And, now that I have even got sponsors, the sky should be the limit.

Who are these sponsors?

Boston View Restaurant and Mogas. The restaurant has not only given me a job as a supervisor, but also offers me free meals besides giving me time off to train.

Odeke's favourite dish is the very simple posho and beans combo.

At the restaurant, I can eat and drink anything. There is nothing as bad to a sportsman as training when you don't know where your next meal will come from.

I really thank Haji Sula Mayanja for this offer.

So, what's your best dish?

Posho and beans. If you ever invite me to your home, that's what you should serve me with a big jug of water.

Certainly all hasn't been rosy. What do you consider as your biggest disappointment?

Leaving school prematurely. My dream was to become an accountant. Lack of funds to pay my tuition forced me out in the first year at university.

If I ever get money, I will certainly go back to school. You know these qualifications are handy in life after sports.

As a boxer you are also able to read contracts and also understand your finances better. It is because of lack of such a background that many boxers suffer in retirement. I want to be like Peter Okello and Godfrey Nyakana.

They properly planned for their retirement.

After a hard day's training and work at the restaurant, how do you unwind?

Unlike many sportsmen. I am not into things like clubbing or women. I am happily married with one child and also born again.

I am the kind that would like to properly invest the little that I have.

For instance many fighters are excited about staying in say Europe or USA. I am not. I would prefer to go there for fights and return to invest proceeds back home.

You should also remember that taxes in the first world are very high. I have got some offers from the US, but I had to think twice.

I don't want to be like many boxers who get sucked into the American lifestyle. They are excited by the glitz and glamour and by the time they wake up, they are being deported.

Besides boxing, are you into any other sport?

Yes. I also love basketball and soccer. After church on Sunday, I link up with former classmates at Makerere University Business School, Nakawa for games.

In football, I am a defender while in basketball I can dunk better than many seasoned players.

I also swim at Spener Beach in Entebbe, though my new sponsors say that is too far. They will soon link me to Kabira Country Club.

So, what's your parting shot?

I want to tell Ugandans that there is a world champion amidst them. It is just a matter of time and Uganda's anthem will be sounding out to the world.

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