Former 154-pound world champion and Uganda boxing legend Kassim Ouma still has an itch for boxing.
Ouma is set to face Kenyan Olympian and former continental champion Rayton Okwiri (8-0-1, 6 KOs) in early December this year in Kampala. It’s been nearly 18 years since Ouma captured the IBF world super welterweight title. Now 43, Ouma (29-17-1, 18 KOs) soldiers on. Check out what he shared with BoxingAfrica.com’s John Nene in this exclusive interview below!
BA: Kassim, it’s great to catch up with you. Tell us about your fight with Kenya’s Rayton Okwiri scheduled for this year early December in Kampala.
KO: Well altogether, l’m just excited. l’m going to fight live in Kampala in front of my fans in Uganda and neighboring East African countries. I want them to watch me live in action. l’m so eager. I can’t wait.
BA: This is your first time fighting at home. How excited are you about that?
KO: I’m more than excited to fight at home. This is one big chance l’ve been waiting for because l’m heading towards the end of my career in boxing and l would like them to watch the real Kassim in action. I would want my fans to decide if l should continue to fight or l quit.
BA: How did this fight come about?
KO: l was chatting online with the promoter of our fight, Stephen Sembuya, and praising him for assisting Olympians Shadir Musa and David Ssemuju in turning professional. He then asked me if I could fight at home in a main card with Musa and Ssemuju fighting on the undercard. I told him definitely. l’m more than willing to fight at home for the first time since l turned pro. He asked the opponent l’m ready to fight and l told him anybody as long as fans will enjoy.
After one day he came back and asked how about Rayton Okwiri of Kenya? I told him that’s okay, l’m ready to take Okwiri to school and teach him how to fight as a pro. He later sent the contract which l’ve already signed.
BA: Are you happy with what you’ve been offered?
KO: Money is not the issue in this fight. My burning desire is to fight for my fans, mingle with them after the fight because they’ve only watched me in action on their televisions at home, and read about me online.
I want to be the first former Ugandan pro boxing world champion to fight at home. Other Ugandan former world champions such as Ayub Kalule, John ‘The Beast’ Mugabi and Cornelius Boza Edwards never fought at home.
BA: Give us your thoughts on Okwiri as a fighter?
KO: l don’t know much about him other than watching his videos online. He’s a southpaw like me. I also know he boxed for Kenya in the Olympics in 2016 and lost in the quarterfinals so he’s a good boxer. But in the pro world, he’s still green and is also younger than me. He should prepare himself for punishment. If he’s a good student he should learn from me. I’m not scared of any opponent when in the squared circle. I also advise Okwiri not to be scared of my reputation. Let him relax and be himself. He should know l’m going to win the fight but if he defeats me, l’ll accept it like a sportsman.
BA: Do you think your experience gives you the edge here?
KO: Definitely yes. l’m more experienced than Okwiri, I have fought more rounds than him and met tougher opponents like Triple G [Gennadiy Golovkin]. I need to train harder because l know Kenyan boxers are tough so l cannot take my opponent for granted. I will train hard to bring back the young Ouma in me.
BA: You’re now 43 years old and Okwiri is 35. Does that age gap give Okwiri an advantage?
KO: That will depend. It’s not a big deal. What l know is that the best fighters are the old guys. The age gap is not an advantage. In any case he’s not younger also at 35. Much will depend on how he delivers in the ring.
BA: Some boxing analysts feel at 43 years, you should not be fighting. What’s your take on it?
KO: I don’t think l’m older than George Foreman and Bernard Hopkins, and they did better yet they were past 43 years. Hopkins won the championship at 48 years. He is my inspiration. I trained together with him in Florida so age is not a factor to me. I feel l can still fight for ten more years or more. I have a friend who fought at over 60 years.
BA: Don’t you feel healthwise it’s risky fighting at this advanced age bearing in mind you’ve lost your last eight fights?
KO: l’m very healthy as usual. I don’t remember the last time l was sick. Therefore, there is no risk at all. People should also not forget l’ve been fighting in the US and now in Europe. Here boxers are regularly checked unlike Africa. If l was not fit to fight the doctors would have told me so.
BA: What has contributed to your loss of eight fights in a row?
KO: l think l have not been preparing well because somebody just calls, tells me there’s a fight and l take it. Personally, l don’t feel it much. My aim right now is to help the young boxers come up by fighting against me.
BA: What else drives you to keep on fighting although you have not been as successful in recent years?
KO: The love of the game drives me to keep on fighting, the passion l have in boxing is huge. It’s not even the money but pure love of the game. There’s no end to amassing wealth. I’m doing well myself. I can’t complain.
BA What are your goals in boxing right now?
KO: My goal right now is to train boxers from home to become world champions like me. I’m currently training several of them in Germany like Mzamir Kakande. He won a gold medal for Uganda in the Africa Championships 2017 in Congo, Brazzaville. The boy is good and determined to make it, he’s still a welter. I also have Ofono John.
BA: What message do you have for your fans back home ahead of this fight?
KO: l’m appealing to my fans in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and DRC to come in large numbers to watch me give them quality boxing. I cannot let them down. I will rekindle the long rivalry in boxing between Uganda and Kenya. I’m appealing to my friend in Kenya, Isaac Mulindi, to come to Kampala with all my Kenyan friends.