•Known for his sheer determination, the Kenya Prisons sergeant plans to travel the world in pursuit of the most coveted titles in the sport.
•Okwiri has been punching furiously ever since he quit the amateur ranks seven years ago with his eyes firmly trained on emulating the likes of Floyd Mayweather, the American pro-boxer who has cut a niche in the hall of fame.
Rayton 'Boom Boom' Okwiri says he's ready to challenge the world and assert Kenya's authority as an international boxing powerhouse.
Known for his sheer determination, the Kenya Prisons sergeant plans to travel the world in pursuit of the most coveted titles in the sport.
Okwiri has been punching furiously ever since he quit the amateur ranks seven years ago with his eyes firmly trained on emulating the likes of Floyd Mayweather, the American pro-boxer who has cut a niche in the hall of fame.
A southpaw boxer born on March 26, 1986, he traces his lineage to Butere in Kakamega county. Okwiri drew international attention when he was named to Kenya's Olympic team for the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
On February 4, 2017, he made his professional debut, schooling Sakehe Mkalekwa at the Crown Plaza in Nairobi
On June 8, 2019, his pro boxing resilience paid off on the international stage when he pulverized Hussein Itaba to win the African Boxing Union middleweight title in his sixth fight.
A grateful Okwiri thanked his uncle Nathan Okaya for introducing him to the sport he has grown to adore and which has become his primary source of income.
"I started boxing because my uncle Okaya was an amateur pugilist and would ask me to accompany him to the boxing gym."
Despite his uncle's moral support, Okwiri could have easily given up on the game if he had paid attention to the fears his mother, Priscah Odhiambo, constantly raised about his safety.
"At first, I faced opposition from my mother, who thought boxing was a dangerous sport, but she later became my biggest fan."
Okwiri attended Ziwani Primary School in Mombasa from 1995 to 2002 before moving on to Serani Secondary in the same city, where he completed his Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) in 2006.
He joined Kenya Prisons after finishing high school, rising through the ranks from corporal to sergeant. He grew up in Makande, Mombasa, where he spent his formative years.
Okwiri slammed unscrupulous promoters for leaving many boxers depressed after failing to pay them at the end of tournaments.
"We need promoters we can rely on. Those who keep their promises and pay their boxers on time, "Okwiri stated.
"It's very painful that the majority of boxing promoters have turned out to be unscrupulous leeches looking to reap where they have not sown."
Using his ordeal as an example, Okwiri expressed his dissatisfaction with how Ugandan boxing promoter Steve Sembuya handled his planned bout.
The Kenyan Olympian — standing at 5ft7 — was scheduled to fight Ugandan Kassim Ouma in a non-title fight in December, but the fight was canceled due to pay disagreements.
"A good example is the man who was supposed to promote my fight in Uganda against Kassim.
"I've never met a more ineffective promoter; on the phone, he seems genuine, but when I met him, I sensed trouble. I was so disappointed because I prepared for this fight for two months and it didn't happen.
"The promoter failed to meet us at the airport. We had to pay for our transportation to the hotel. "I'm so glad I went with my sponsors; otherwise, we would have been stranded," Okwiri said.
Okwiri was particularly dissatisfied with the promoter's decision to invite controversial politician Bobi Wine to their event.
"We agreed during the weigh-in that he would pay us before the fight, but he broke his promise. That's why the day's final five bouts were canceled: boxers simply refused to fight until they were paid.
"My sponsors had footed every bill for me in Uganda since the promoter has disappeared. He is not returning phone calls or responding to messages. I'm hoping that the Kenyan promoters will pick up the fight I had with Kassim Ouma in Nairobi."
Reports indicated that the prize purse for the 10-round non-title fight was USD 10,000.
Okwiri's latest fight was organized by Solid Rock boxing promotion at Nairobi's KICC Tsavo ballroom.
He electrified the home crowd with an exhilarating performance to thump Tanzanian Ally Ndaro in their closely contested, action-packed middleweight battle.
Despite Okwiri's determination to annihilate his opponent early in the combat, the two fought to the decisive round, with the Tanzanian putting up a valiant effort.
A dissatisfied Okwiri, however, claimed his adversary employed shady strategies to drag the battle out.
"I'm disappointed that the referee did nothing to liberate me from Ndaro since he kept limiting my movement in the ring by grabbing me," Okwiristated.
“I had planned to finish off the job by the fifth round but my opponent used dubious tactics to prolong the conflict up to the 10th round,” he said.
Okwiri had to endure a cut he received in the sixth round to his forehead. In their unanimous decision, judges Julus Odhiambo and Franklin Imbenzi scored Okwiri 80 to 72, while Charles Oloo rated him 89 to 73.
The Kenyan poster boy believes Tanzanian boxer Karim "Mtu Kazi" Mandonga is overrated and that he can knock him out in less than five minutes.
After destroying Daniel Wanyonyi in a thrilling bout to fulfill his pre-match "Sugunyo" banter, the Tanzanian challenged all Kenyan boxers to a fight.
The 10-round super middleweight contest ended in a technical knockout for Mandonga when Wanyonyi failed to step into the ring after the fifth round.
"Let's not even get started on him. Mandonga has no chance against me. Yes, I wouldn't mind meeting him for a good fight, but he should know we're not on the same level "Okwiri stated.
The former African Boxing Union super middleweight champion says he was unfazed after losing the International Boxing Federation [IBF] junior middleweight title.
He crashed to Emmany "General" Kalombo of the Democratic Republic of Congo in their 12-round bout in Sandton, Johannesburg, Gauteng.
“I'm here. I'm not going anywhere. No matter the injury I'm going to be the same boxer I've always been. I'll figure it out. I'll make some tweaks, some changes, but I'm still coming,” Okwiri said.
“When I started boxing, there was a time when I said one day I want to go to the Olympics. I went to the Olympics. When I started boxing, I said one day I want to be an African champion. Yes, I became an African champion, because I beat some good boxers,” Okwiri said.
“Now that I've got this opportunity, I am going to prove to the world that I am still there. I remember in 2014, I was one of the best boxers in the world in IBA Boxing. I'm still the same.”
Okwiri has urged retired Kenyan pugilists who have made the country proud on the global stage to consider embracing pro boxing once they hang gloves.
However, in a separate interview, former Hit Squad captain Nick Okoth ruled out a career in professional boxing after announcing his exit from the amateur scene.
Having graced two Olympics and four Commonwealth games, many believe Okoth has mustered enough expertise to dare opponents in the pro arena, but the Kenya Defense Forces sergeant will hear none of it.
Okoth, however, reiterated the need for local boxing promoters to fix things, noting that their house faced too many challenges.
“You cannot witness all the chaos going on in the house next door and still be in a hurry to go there," Okoth said.
“They need to market their product in a better way if they intend to attract any clients," he added.
Okoth said that while pro boxing is meant to make pugilists rich and famous, local boxers have been known to wallow in endless misery.
"The kind of pay professional boxers in the country are getting is also disappointing. I mean, why put in the effort to get a paltry Sh3000 at the end of the fight?" Nick asked.
“Again there is the question of how the professional arena is managed. Our amateur competitions are more organized and run in a better way. Out there, pro boxers flourish in wealth but the situation is quite different in the country.”
Okoth cited an example of Okwiri who was forced to face an ill-prepared Congolese opponent in a recent bout.
Okwiri lost to Emmany Kalombo of the Democratic Republic of Congo in the International Boxing Federation (IBF) super-middleweight title fight hosted in Johannesburg, South Africa on July 2.
Although Kalombo defeated Okwiri via Technical Knockout in round 8, Okoth believes Kslombi emerged from the blues and wasn't prepared for their bout.
“Rayton (Okwiri) told me he had to fight a weak opponent who from the look of things hadn't trained well enough for the bout. Some people have turned professional boxing into an avenue of minting quick cash, denying it the respect and competitiveness it deserves.”
Okwiri echoed Okoth's sentiments saying the entire boxing arena requires a total overhaul.
“There is a need for the Boxing Federation of Kenya to work closely with the Kenya Professional Boxing Commission (KPBC).
“Once such a healthy relationship has been established, it will be easy for BFK to serve as the constant supply chain for KPBC where retired Hit Squad boxers will be in a position to move to the next stage.
“But as things stand now, there are so many complaints already in place, including disturbing cases of promoters who disappear as soon as they land deals with corporate bodies to sponsor events in the country,” he said.
Despite the hiccups, Okwiri says he doesn't regret joining the sport.
"Boxing pays and most of the things I have achieved in life are owed to the game. I want to encourage all the young people who are aspiring to be boxers not to look behind. They should go for it!"
Okwiri reckons he is destined for greater heights after landing a sponsorship deal earlier in the year. He signed a sponsorship agreement with Finix Casino.
Bringing the development to light, the company said it would cater for all his needs.
“We are delighted that Finix Casino has agreed to sponsor Okwiri's boxing career and has gone above and beyond to ensure Okwiri has a good team to manage his affairs both inside and outside of boxing,” the statement read in part.
Following the deal, Okwiri appointed a team to manage his affairs both inside and outside the ring as a result of the deal.
“Rayton has assembled a team that will be responsible for ensuring his success in the ring as well as a role model athlete outside of the ring.”
They include Mark Wakanyaga (Legal advisor), Tim Adeka (Brand Manager), and Cliff Mboya (Operations Manager).
“The appointed team will collaborate closely with his trainers to ensure that the boxer is well-managed for him to achieve tangible success.”
According to Finix Casino, the decision was made after considering past boxers who failed to maximize their full potential when presented with opportunities outside of the sport.
In an exclusive interview, brand manager Tim Adeka said they settled on the boxer owing to his impressive track record. sign
"He's the best athlete based on an internal management audit we did. Compared to other boxers in Kenya, Rayton has extraordinary discipline, resilience, and career exposure, and the fact that he is the current ABU Middleweight champion," Adeka said.
"We are already handling all the administrative aspects of his boxing career, including bookings, commercial engagement, media liaison, and more. We have catered to his welfare as well as mapped out a strategy where his fans will get to see and know more of Okwiri, the entertainer."
Adeka added they will ensure that Okwiri's personality and lifestyle are consumed by the fans, just like well-known boxers around the globe.
"He has four fights max this year. But you'll be seeing a lot of public appearances, including pre-packaged features on his social media platforms."
Cliff Mboya, Operations Manager, confirmed that they were already burning the midnight oil to ensure that Okwiri gets a quality trainer who can steer him to unprecedented heights.
"We have talked to several coaches and we shall be unveiling one of them as Okwiri's official trainer in the coming weeks," Mboya said.
"We have also ensured that he will be training in one of the best facilities in the country and that's why we have identified the AV Fitness Center in Lavington, Nairobi which has cutting-edge training equipment."