Interview: Erick Ochieng

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Photo courtesy of Charlie Morgan
Photo courtesy of Charlie Morgan

“Take photos of Erick if you want,” says trainer Bryan Lawrence begrudgingly, failing to conceal stern concern for his protégé’s preparation. “I want him to work hard, though – make sure he doesn’t start posing.”

Set to face French journeyman Frederic Serre at Wembley Arena as part of the Betfair London’s Finest bill on Saturday night, Erick Ochieng is days away from another landmark in his burgeoning career.

Barring a significant upset, the Kenyan-born light middleweight from Stoke Newington will extend an impressive winning run to seven bouts, cementing his credentials for a shot at the British title in the process.

Even so, the 25-year-old is in a mischievous mood. As Ochieng limbers up alone, briskly shadow-boxing around a ring at the TKO Gym in Canning Town, he validates the fears of his mentor.

Pausing every now and then to aim a gesture at the camera with a beaming grin and clenched fist, the English champion appears nonchalant. “Am I looking good, man?” he hollers on the back of one flurry.

However, any hint of a jovial atmosphere swiftly subsides when Lawrence steps inside the ropes. Five rounds of pad-work at a furious speed showcase Ochieng’s considerable skills and demonstrate his readiness for the weekend.

Despite the disruption of original opponent Terry Carruthers pulling out of the contest a week ago, Ochieng is ready to dispatch his new adversary.

“Serre has lost seven times but has four knockouts on his record, too,” he explains after the session’s finale – a punishing stint on the heavy bag. “It’s going to be tough but I will still be victorious.

“I am focused and prepared for anything. He is going to get the same treatment as Terry Carruthers was going to get.

“Boxing is like that – things change very quickly. You have to expect the unexpected because sometimes you don’t know who you are fighting until you step through the ropes and look across the ring.”

Sparring for the past two months with Colchester welterweight Lee Purdy – who has his own assignment against resolute Mexican Cosme Rivera at Wembley – Ochieng has earned the right to be confident.

He speaks excitedly about the prospect of performing in front of his fans at such a prestigious venue, predicting deafening chants of nickname ‘Eagle’ to complement a stylish victory that might well come within the eight-round distance.

Photo courtesy of Charlie Morgan
Photo courtesy of Charlie Morgan

Naturally, bravado overflows at a couple of points. “My future is so bright I should start selling sunglasses,” is one such soundbite, outrageous enough even to draw a giggle from its orator.

But Ochieng is also conscientious. Almost exactly two years after his only defeat in 13 professional fights – to Luke Robinson in a controversial four-round contest decided on points – he talks about the learning curve his life is tied to.

Indeed, having moved over to London at the age of 11 following the death of his grandmother, it has been a tumultuous journey.

Arriving on these shores to find his parents had separated, Ochieng admits that he “fell into the wrong crowd” and immersed himself in crime and cannabis to ease the culture shock of landing in London from Nairobi.

Wandering between foster homes for three years, he eventually stumbled upon twin saviours – leather gloves and staunch belief in God.

“I went down to the Haringey Police Amateur Boxing Club and a guy called Chris Hall told me I had talent,” Ochieng adds. “It was about that time that I started going to church, where I was told that all talent is God-given.

“That hit me like a tonne of bricks and I knew I had to take boxing more seriously to take advantage of my ability.

“Now, my faith is everything to me. Jesus has given me all I have. Without him, I would be locked up, any career washed up.”

On Saturday, Ochieng’s shorts will be emblazoned with the Kenyan flag on one leg, offset by a Union Jack across the other. Immensely proud of his heritage, he prays for a peaceful aftermath to the elections held in his former homeland on Monday.

Photo courtesy of Charlie Morgan
Photo courtesy of Charlie Morgan

“I have cousins and uncles over in Kenya and they are in my thoughts at the moment,” he adds. “Whatever happens over the next weeks will shape the country’s future.

“Last time [2007] everything was so chaotic – Kenya needs to show the world it can get through without violence.”

A less political kind of violence has become Ochieng’s livelihood. He is so comfortable in combat, in fact, that Lawrence believes a brawl for the British title to be inevitable as soon as Brian Rose vacates the belt – probably within months.

All things considered, the man who has developed Ochieng from an industrious but unrefined amateur has plenty to be proud of.

“Erick is not a rough diamond any more – he’s smooth,” Lawrence finishes. “And he will definitely win on Saturday. He’s prepared for anything and everything.”

1 COMMENT

  1. There is no doubt that Erick the eagle Ochieng will be Soaring Higher than the chickens waiting to be feasted on after Reigning in his Domain. Time to invest in shades This Boy Is On FIRE!!!!

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