Diaspora Kenyan Eric Ochieng punches his way to top
Diaspora Kenyan ERICK ‘THE EAGLE’ OCHIENG is a force to be reckoned with in the world of British boxing. SHAMLAL PURI throws a few verbal punches at the champ and gets a bagful of responses in return.
When he steps into the ring, English Light Middleweight champion Erick ‘The Eagle’ Ochieng has a single aim — to knock his opponent flat on the canvas.
And when he is concentrating on unleashing well-aimed jabs and power punches, the ringside erupts with chants of “Erick! Erick! Erick!” The atmosphere is simply electric.
The Nairobi-born 27-year-old is a professional boxer, and is fast becoming a dominant force on the British boxing scene. He has seen off the likes of Andrew Lowe, Max Maxwell, and Ryan Toms, all stars in their own right, since beating Nick Quigley to lift the vacant title on 28 January, 2012, in a tough match at York Hall in east London.
He has spiritedly defended his title, proving a tough adversary to the contenders, and a favourite among boxing fans, thanks to his crowd-pleasing style and playful demeanour.
Erick was born in the Kaloleni area of Nairobi and raised by his grandmother until the age eleven, when she passed away. He then moved to London to join his parents.
On arrival in the British capital, the boy found that his parents had separated, and he went to live with his mother.
Like every newly arrived migrant, Erick experienced a culture shock in his new environment. Unfortunately, he mixed with the wrong crowd, and subsequently got into trouble with the police. The young Kenyan ended up in a foster home in Tottenham, north London.
The subsequent court appearance gave him a jolt, and he decided to turn his life around. He started to attend church services and has since then been a devout Christian.
To occupy himself more constructively, he and a friend started to attend the Haringey Boxing Club in north London. Rather than fighting on the street, he turned to fighting in the ring, and found that the sport gave him the motivation to work hard to achieve his goals.
“I was always into sport, even as a child in Nairobi,” he says. “I would take part in football, basketball and athletics. I started boxing at the age of 14, but did not take it seriously.
“The trainers watching me in London said I had talent, so I started being keen on training, and my boxing career took off from there.”
Today, he says that he places his success squarely at the feet of the Lord Jesus.
Boxing runs in Erick’s blood. He draws inspiration from his uncle Nick Odore, nicknamed Computer, who dominated the light welterweight final in the 1990 Commonwealth Games, but fell victim to biased judgement.
Erick’s amateur boxing career ultimately led him to win the Haringey Box Cup in 2008, and successfully representing the Haringey Boxing Club in the Swedish Club Championship in 2005 and 2006. It was around this time that he noticed Bryan Lawrence, who was to be his future trainer, working in the gym with Ian Napa, the British and European Bantam Weight Champion. He approached Lawrence and asked for his help.
In September 2009, Erick turned professional. Lawrence, an experienced trainer, took Erick under his wing. The coach had previously brought success to such boxers as Napa, as well as Henry Akawade (Commonwealth and European WBO heavyweight champion), James Cook (British and European super middleweight champion) and Richard Williams (Commonwealth IBO light middleweight world champion).
Lawrence guided Erick through his early professional fights, and ultimately to attaining the English light middleweight championship.
Ochieng takes an orthodox stance in the ring, which is mostly used by right-handed boxers, including the legendary Muhammad Ali, Lennox Lewis, Joe Frazier and Mike Tyson.
Erick’s boxing record speaks for itself. From 65 amateur fights, he won 55, with 22 knock-outs.
There have been some low moments, too. After his 3 x 3 minute rounds welterweight bout against Paddy Gallagher in East London on April 5, Erick had to be given medical treatment and stretchered from the ring. Later, he put the incident down to too much heat and stuffiness in the hall.
After turning professional in 2009, Erick has set an impressive record. He has won 13 out of 15 fights — no mean feat in a sport driven by tough competition in the ring. He is ranked 20th out of 129 in the UK, and 185th from 1,685 internationally.
And he is not about to hang up his gloves. He says with deep conviction, “My ultimate aim is to be the world champion.
“I am a full time fighter and I spend four to five days in training, especially when there is a fight on the horizon. I want to make sure that I get to where I should really be in boxing.”
The ultimate landing ground for ‘The Eagle’ is the top spot in the global arena.