How Pal Pal shaped Kenya’s boxing talent 

Monday, June 20th, 2022 01:23 | By
Pumwani Community centre that houses Pal Pal gymnasium. PHOTO/Raphael Munge

Sitting at the heart of the usually busy Gikomba Market which is a hub for second-hand clothes is the famous Pal Pal gymnasium that has churned out some of the greatest boxers that Kenya has ever produced. 

Located in the middle of the lower-income eastern part of Nairobi, the multipurpose recreational facility has offered hope for tens of youth from Majengo and the neighbouring Shauri Moyo and California Estates who are keen to escape the trap of drug abuse and other anti-social behaviour 

Pal Pal boasts of having the best boxing coaches in the country, most of who ventured into the career after hanging their gloves. 

On any given day, the outer section of the facility is a beehive of activity as residents jostle to use the Nairobi County-owned public toilet as well as the parking bay after paying a fee. 

It is here that one will see both active and retired boxers who not only entertained millions of boxing enthusiasts but also created a piece of history in the sport. 

Former national Super Featherweight champion David “Silent Danger “Kiilu is one of the products of the gymnasium who carved a niche for himself in the international scene and is currently imparting his skills to upcoming boxers at the facility. 

Kiilu won the World Boxing Federation (WBF) Africa Super featherweight title in 2002 before adding the icing on the cake with a Universal Boxing Council (UBC) belt four years later after outclassing Darius Smith of Poland. 

His fellow trainer, Ngandu “Mau Mau “Njoka, who serves at the Nairobi Inspectorate, is also among the products who have novices and intermediate titles among his accolades. 

Active days

The name Joseph Akhasamba, who is also a trainer, also comes to the fore as also one of the boxers who shone brightly during his active days. 

Akhasamba’s biggest accolade is being the sole Kenyan male professional pugilist to have won a world title, the World Boxing Board (WBB) heavyweight belt. 

He achieved the feat in May 2000 when he challenged the champion, Rene Hani of Dresden, Germany, and defeated him on points in a 12 rounds contest. 

He defended the title the following year, on September 14 2001, against another German national, Willi Fischer at Offenbach, Germany and lost the 12-round fight on points. 

He took part in the 1985 national novice and intermediate championships and emerged victorious in the light heavyweight berth. 

Thomas ‘Black Rhino’ Okusi holds the national heavyweight boxing belt.  But it has not been men’s stardom in Pal Pal’s products as a female boxer in the form of Jane Kavulani has also proved her worth. 

Kavulani’s professional debut was on June 12, 2002, in Dar-es-Salaam against Monica Mwakasanga who was spurred on by a big home crowd. 

Surprisingly, she fought a six-round bout contrary to the common four-round for a debutant. 

To the amazement of her followers, she fought gallantly and jabbed her way to the least bell. 

Her first contest out of Africa in South Korea against Ji-Hye Woo at the Hanlim Gymnasium, Jeju, South Korea on March 11, 2006, ended in a loss although she gave a good account of herself 

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