In a competitive year that saw many African-born boxers rise above the fray, BoxingAfrica.com recognizes WBC World Female Super Bantamweight champion Fatuma Zarika as our 2017 Africa Fighter of the Year.
Zarika stamped herself as a true world champion this year. After winning the title via decision over Alicia Ashley in October 2016, Zarika made her first title defense in February 2017. She scored an impressive first-round KO over Flora Machela.
Her next title defense occurred in December against Catherine Phiri, one of the best female fighters in the world. Zarika displayed a multiplicity of skills, soundly defeating the former world champion in front of adoring fans in Nairobi, Kenya.
2018 will bring more challenges for her. We would love a match versus Nigeria’s Helen Joseph at some point. But for now, Zarika stands atop women’s boxing in Africa and is our choice for 2017 Africa Fighter of the Year.
We’d also like to recognize several other names who came close in this heated competition. Isaac “Royal Storm” Dogboe of Ghana needed only a few more votes to claim the top spot. On January 6, the undefeated Dogboe will face the dangerous Cesar Juarez of Mexico for the interim WBO World super bantamweight title. A win there and he joins Zolani Tete as the only African-born world champions in the sport today.
Speaking of Tete, he finished third in the race following a stellar campaign in 2017. Tete won the WBO World bantamweight crown with a one-sided unanimous decision over Arthur Villanueva in April. But it was his one-punch, 11-second KO of Siboniso Gonya last November that truly turned heads. Tete is now a two-division champ and working his way toward Hall of Fame credentials.
Two other names who impressed during the voting were Ghana’s Richard Commey and Namibia’s Sakaria Lukas. After two head-scratching decision losses, Commey returning to the ring in March with a comfortable unanimous decision win over Hedi Slimani. Commey is on the verge of another world title shot. On February 10, he meets Alejandro Luna in an IBF World lightweight title eliminator. As talented as they come, we expect Commey to hoisting a strap above his head in a matter of months.
Sakaria Lukas graduated from prospect to contender in 2017. The undefeated featherweight is knocking on the door of a world title fight after a 2017 that saw him soundly defeat three opponents. Keep your eyes on this rising man – and so many more African boxers – in 2018.