‘Hands of Steel’ Conje’s health gets worse

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CONJESTINA-ACHIENGNAIROBI, Kenya, October 17- Former world women’s middleweight boxing champion,Conjestina Achieng’s health has taken a turn for the worse having resorted to eating from dustbins as her woes continue to pile.

The pugilist, 35, is now admitted at Avenue Health Care Hospital in Kisumu City, about 300km west of Nairobi, having been taken to the facility by well wishers who also volunteered to foot her medical bills as her long struggle with mental illness continues.

Fighting under the nick-name “Hands of Steel”, Achieng’ is a two-time world champion who did not have a local match and had to be content with playing against fighters from outside Kenya, many of them from the U.S..

During a recent visit to the village, Xinhua was told of horrid tales about the extent of Achieng’s mental retardation with only few people being about to recognize her.

“That is one woman I admired most,” a passerby whispered as he walked past Achieng’s homestead. “I liked her courage and confidence. Whenever she spoke, I felt truly a Kenyan.”

Achieng’s rise to stardom was one of sheer determination and a battle against the odds which catapulted her to cult figure status.

At 27, most pugilists would ordinarily be planning to clear their desks, but that is when Achieng’ got started.

She was Kenya’s first genuine female boxing celebrity, managing to earn considerable media attention even though her earnings were nowhere near her acquired status.

Yet the champion found herself in no man’s land: her rare talents and modest achievements were hallowed by most men but not women, or other pro-women groups.

“A role model? I would have exhausted all disciplines before I get down to boxing,” one woman replied when asked about her impression of the boxer.

Achieng’s talent and commitment could have won her more belts and big money, but without the support of proper managementher gift is headed to the wilderness.

Achieng’s decision to join the ring was an afterthought but her sojourn in the game had failed to yield.

She regularly suffered from pecuniary embarrassment, rent arrears; the kind of conditions not sufficient to add weight.

Achieng’ was a great boxer, no doubt. What she needed were other two variables to complete the circuit if her dream of making it big were to be realized – promoter and manager and then the rest would follow.

However, Achieng’ refused to say whether she had a manager or not. If she had, he must have been the lousy type who wanted to paint her picture as that of dire misery and deprivation.

If the strategy was to attract corporate sponsorship, it was dead on arrival. The corporate world does not give sponsorship to those who need it.

Last year, she was arrested after she assaulted and caused bodily harm to her landlord, but her case was dropped after they reached an out-of-court settlement.

Achieng’ took to the ring in 2000 after she was inspired by her elder brother Joseph Kusimba who is a former boxer.

She made a professional debut in 2002 in Nairobi during after winning a four-round bout over fellow Kenyan Naomi Wanjiku.

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