NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 8- World Boxing Council (WBC) Super bantamweight women champion, Fatuma ‘Iron Fist’ Zarika has been belatedly named the StarTimes/Sports Journalists Association of Kenya (SJAK) sports personality of the month for December 2017.
Zarika beat chess ace, Joyce Nyaruai, and four-time Safari rally champion Carl ‘flash’ Tundo to be the sixth recipient of the coveted award.
“I am very thankful to God for this award because it is something I didn’t expect. I thank SJAK and StarTimes for recognizing my efforts and awarding me. It is a motivation to keep on working hard especially ahead of my title defense,” Zarika said after receiving her award on Thursday.
The 34-year-old pugilist was unanimously voted by a panel of journalists following her successful title defense against Zambian Catherine Phiri at the Carnivore Grounds in Nairobi on December 2.
Zarika won the brutal bout on points after she scored 97-92, 98-91 and 99-92 from the three international judges who presided over the fight. The victory in front of an adoring home support extended her win record to 30, of which 17 have been via knock-outs.
“It is something great to award her because most of the time, athletes and footballers have been the ones being awarded. It is a motivation for her and hopefully this will spur her to make more strides,” Zarika’s coach, famed boxer Omar Kassongo said.
The victory saw Zarika bestowed a Head of State Commendation (HSC) honour by President Uhuru Kenyatta as Kenya celebrated her 54th Jamhuri Day on December 12.
“Before the fight, I said that we needed this belt as Kenya and I also needed it as well. I have been in boxing for a very long time and there was that push of getting this title especially with the pain of having bouts stolen by promoters,” Zarika further explained.
Other athletes who have been honored with the SJAK/StarTimes award are Simon Cherono (Deaflympics), Helen Obiri (athletics), Janet Okelo (rugby), Ismail Changawa (Tennis) and Edith Wisa (volleyball).
The mother of two walked away with a trophy, StarTimes 42-inch digital television set and KSh100, 000.
“Zarika has been outstanding throughout in her career and I have personally followed her progress for a long time. She is an inspiration to many, especially girls who are eager to take up boxing as a career in the future,” StarTimes Director of Marketing and PR, Japheth Akhulia said.
She now hopes she will be able to defend her title in May despite financial difficulties especially after the pull-out of her sponsors, betting firm SportPesa.
“WBC has given me until May to have a fight and defend my title. I have already started training after recovering from the December fight but the only challenge is that I am unsure of whether I will earn sponsors for the fight,” Zarika said.
She added; “I am hoping that I will get partners on board because this is a title I don’t want to lose.”
She has also called upon the government to add more support to individual sports as much as they do to team sports.