KAMPALA. With her black Legend gloves, Veronica Ayo hits the pads like thunder. With a hand speed of a bullet. She screams like real fighters do. Her power somehow shaking her coach Abu Kikenwa, a man almost three times her weight. She is marvellous.
“I don’t know whether her jaw is strong enough, but if it isn’t she should start eating mberenge [hard corn], because she is going to face a lion in the ring,” Ayo said as she paused play for the interview.
The unforgiving sun squeezed every bead of sweat out of her. On the other side of the ceramic uncovered veranda of the last floor of Ovino Mall in Kisenyi—where Kampala Boxing Club sought temporary refuge after eviction—I had seen Ayo’s potential opponent struggling to regain her fitness. She can even pack a heavier punch than Ayo’s, but hardly two weeks training after a year’s break, Hajara Nakkazi is slow.
Her coaches urge her to speed up. She tells them “it’s not easy.” They tell her “you are better than her but must resume roadwork so soon, otherwise, you can’t make it.” She says “I will try.” Ayo and Nakkazi will raise the curtains on Boxing Day for former African champion Badru Lusambya and Moses Golola among others at Laponye Mall in Kampala courtesy of Step By Step promotions. “She can do anything but she must avoid my right hook because when it lands on her jaw that could be her end…” All along, Ayo had not smiled, even once. But as she sent this stern warning, which isn’t easy to doubt, her slim lips slit a bit as she clenches her blue bandaged right fist. “I don’t want to say much because she might get scared and abandon the fight like others have done,” she says referring to Jackie Nassimbwa who allegedly abandoned their kickboxing duel.
That Thursday afternoon, Ayo had hardly 48 hours to her fight in the last leg of the national kickboxing league. On Saturday she said she weighed only 58kg but beat her opponent who was 65.8kg. Three others: Teddy Alaro, Rebecca Among, and Sarah Nantongo gathered 47 points for Police to win the women’s trophy. Ayo said Nantongo’s opponent was also four kilograms heavier. “It’s hard to fight someone heavier, but we had no option… thanks to our coaches Kikenwa and Ronald Odoch we are champions,” Ayo said. “Now my mind is on that fight on Boxing Day.”
VERONICA AYO AT A GLANCE
Former club: Lira Kickboxing Club
Current club: Police
Sports: boxing, kickboxing
Next opponent: Hajara Nakkazi
Coach: Abu Kikenwa, Ronald Odoch