To those close to him, he is a budding talent, a good boxer with a huge chance of becoming a world star. To others, especially the fans that witnessed his fight against Iranian Abbas Nassab last year, Kenneth ‘Mr. Bad News’ Odeke is merely a big joke, real bad news, as suggests his nickname. But what causes this chasm of perception?
In retrospect, Odeke, 22, had an impeccable record of three knock-out wins in three before that fateful night. So good at frightening his opponents in the build-up to his fights, he was highly billed to win the bout against Nassab. He had assured all that and spectators could not wait. But contrary to expectations, Odeke was battered and humiliated, just to say the least.
The result of what had been deemed as an ‘Odeke Night’ showed the younger boxer had virtually no chance against the experienced Abbas. He looked clueless, provoking theories that he could have been half-baked and ill-prepared for the fight in particular and for professional boxing in general.
But Odeke told Daily Monitor, “I’m still strong, that was a rarity, it happens to everyone.”
Adding, “I still hold that urge and power to push forward despite challenges, this is just the beginning.” He says he is made of sterner stuff and is “keen to scale the Klitscho heights”.
His belief is supported by some in the administrative circles.
Jackson Mugwanya, the secretary general, Uganda Professional Boxing Commission (UPBC), assessed: “Kenneth is a very good boxer, he has the potential to rise again, if well-handled, he’s primed for a better future,” adding, “even the best fighters [like Mike Tyson] have bad days.”
Maureen Mulangira, his new promoter under Intersport International Promotions told Daily Monitor that Odeke is now in good hands and in shape for serious challenges. “In Abbey Mugaye and Semanda Edwin, he has got some of the best coaches. He trains harder and feeds better. I think he is on course.”
She also says that Odeke was rushed into such big fights yet preparation was lacking.
“He didn’t train enough and that is what we are seriously addressing” .
About his experience or the lack of it, Odeke says his record stands: 20(3KO), 2, 3 during his amateur spell with East Coast Boxing Club.
Improvement in technique
Mugwanya says; “I cannot say he was rushed, he had a good number of fights in the amateur ranks. Besides, we have seen better professional fighters like Mike Tyson, who never had so much time in amateur boxing.”
Odeke partly blames the organisers for that agonising defeat, saying “I was mentally-disturbed, they told me the fight had been cancelled, just hours later they told us it’s on.” By then, he says he had switched off. But he dares Nassab vowing that after defeating Hudson Muhumuza, in a National Heavyweight title fight today Lugogo Indoor Stadium, he will seek a rematch with the Iranian.
He boasts an improvement on the technique, especially the footwork.
“I have even added some kilos, yet my footwork is getting better.”
However, fellow boxer Raymond ‘Desert Lion’ Sentongo, thinks Odeke is a good boxer but he doesn’t give it his all in training.
“Training is every boxer’s most lethal weapon. As a professional, you’ve got to be steady all the time but Odeke is somewhat reluctant, otherwise, he’s a good fighter”, he says.
Mugwanya, however, dismisses the Abbas rematch as useless, emphasising that first bout was not meant to be as it was outside the WBC-I jurisdiction.
Tonight’s fight against Muhumuza is Odeke’s first return to the ring since losing to Nassab.
His resolve shall be under close scrutiny by all and sundry and the results might say a lot on whether his daring pursuit of stardom holds any water.