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Boxer’s dream for bout overseas now shattered by Covid

By Wahinya Henry
Thursday, July 16th, 2020
Professional boxer George Owano during one of his training sessions in Buru Buru estate, Nairobi. Photo/PD/RODGERS NDEGWA

Henry Wahinya @PeopleDailyKe

Kenyan professional boxer George Owano Otieno is yet to come to terms with the fact that he missed a major fight.

A planned trip to an Asian country where the pugilist was to face a top opponent for a world title was cancelled in early March 2020 when Kenya announced her first Covid-19 case.

“I expected to make good money but there was nothing I could do following the pandemic that had just started rocking the world,” says Owano.

Before then, Owano was burning the midnight oil in readiness to show the world what stuff he is made of.

“I had trained and assured myself that victory was inevitable. In fact, I was envisaging victory via a knock-out.” 

Owano, who like majority of his peers in the ring, was born and raised in the sports-crazy Eastlands in Nairobi, is now on state stipend after the trip failed.

Growing up, Owano said he was something of a punching bag for estate bullies and soon realised the sooner he learned to defend himself, the better.

“I became fed up of the beatings and punches from big boys in Kayole where I initially stayed,” says Owano who started his career at a tender age while he was a student at Uhuru Estate Secondary School

In 1994, he turned professional after  boxing legends Robert Wangila, Micheal Muya and Sunday Otieno inspired  him.

“I would sneak in to see them spurring or demolish opponents inside estate halls run by Nairobi City Council,” says Owano who quit amateur boxing at the age of 15,”

“I realized amateur boxing had not future. Unlike professional, I knew it was just a matter of time before I sank into obscurity. I was scared of remaining permanently in poverty.

Popularity is what mattered most if you were to scale the ladder in the sport,” says Owano.

But the hopes of the budding boxer came crashing down after he was left out of a trip to the US in 1997 in the eleventh hour despite having participated in trials-cum-junior national youth championship at Maringo Social Hall.

The break as a professional would however arrive after he was pitted against Ugandan lightweight boxer Moses Ssentamu at Nakivubo Stadium in Kampala in a bout that was organized by Jukebox Productions.

Owano went to clinch the inaugural Robert Wangila Memorial professional boxing trophy with a well deserved split points win over stubborn Chiwa Hussein of Tanzania in a 10-round welterweight bout in Nairobi.

The star of the lightweight boxer continued shining brightly when he beat compatriots Henbru Desai and Gilbert Muthune at the knock out stages of the Africa Union title fights.

Others who faced the wrath of Owano include  Ugandan Denis Lusiambo, Indian Vaibhav Singh Yadav, Russian Niali Samedon and the late  Hussein  Chiwa.

Owano gazes into the horizon when asked what are his plans especially with the coronavirus.

“I have been toying with the idea of offering coaching nd venturing into hospitality sector but the pandemic has crippled this.

This is why I am grateful for the food rations and KSh10,000 from the government.”