Akhasamba: Boxing great that Kenya nearly missed

By Charles Thuku
Wednesday, May 20th, 2020
Akhasamba in the ring during a past fight. Photo/PD/PHILIP KAMAKYA

He is in the list of Kenyan boxers of yester-years who made it big in the sport through tough conditions.

Keen boxing fans in the 1980s remember him for his great darts in the ring, excellent techniques and powerful punches that dazed opponents.

Joseph Akhasamba, who has since retired, was not your ordinary pugilist and was by far one of the best in his division, the light heavyweight.

But perhaps the most interesting bit is how Akhasamba ventured into boxing sport with a lot of struggle at the Pumwani Social Hall which is popularly known as Pal Pal Gymnasium in 1982

Akhasamba’s humble beginning in boxing sounds stranger than fiction.

“I was then a jobless young man living in Gorofani area of Majengo, Nairobi with my elder brother and could hardly afford Sh20 to train at Pumwani,” he explains.

Akhasamba says he does not subscribe to the belief that blood is thicker than water, going by the hard way he got the cash from his elder sibling who was then employed.

“He had the money but rarely gave me the gymnasium fee and when he did, it was only Sh10.

I had two options of either using the money to buy food or paying for the work-outs,” said Akhasamba.

By then, Akhasamba was being trained by Kenya Airways coach Alex Omwomo not to scale high heights in the game but to keep fit for self defence.

Training with a school-going friend known as Patrick, Akhasamba’s vision suddenly changed when Omwomo told him to aim higher including featuring for Kenya in future

“Omwomo was a top notch coach and he inculcated into me the culture of hard work but the bottle-neck to my career remained lack of gymnasium fees,” said Akhasamba.

He opens up further on the hardships he underwent in training before he joined the Nairobi City Council team. 

Discovered potential

“Imagine training without shoes and sometimes going without lunch. That was the routine until things improved courtesy of the Kenya Breweries team which came to train at Pumwani,” said Akhasamba.

Breweries coach Charles Anjimbi, who was also the tutor of the national team, Hit Squad, was actually the man who discovered the potential of Akhasamba thus inviting him for drills with the team.

Akhsamaba said that while training with Breweries, he could only get a paltry Sh200 as allowance.

“I remember that I had Sh80 arrears in gymnasium fee and actually went missing before Breweries came calling.

I did odds jobs in Majengo like washing clothes and ironing them in a bid to make ends meet,” said Akhasamba.

Few years later while still training with Breweries, Akhasamba lost hope of ever getting a job with the team after which he was lured by Moi Air Base.

He underwent a medical with the military side before Breweries came searching for him while promising to offer him a full time job.

“That job involved general cleaning but to me, it was better than nothing. I also overlooked that by MAB since I wanted immediate income while they wanted me to first go into training,” he said.

Akhasamba, whose son Benson is also a boxer, was in the crack Hit Squad that won the overall title in the 1987 All Africa Game held in Nairobi.

It was also in the same year that he won the East and Central Africa Championships in his division at the event held in Kampala, Uganda.