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Former world boxing champion now a mental wreck

17 October 2013, 07:43 Ben Ochieng

Kisumu - Former world women's middleweight boxing champion, Conjestina Achieng', is now a mental wreck and has been eating from dustbins.

Achieng', 35, who is now admitted at Avenue Health Care Hospital in Kisumu County, was taken to the facility by well wishers after her condition got worse and who also volunteered to foot her medical bills.

Fighting under the nick-name "Hands of Steel", Achieng' is a two-time world champion who did not have a local match and had to be content with playing against fighters from outside Kenya, many of them from the U.S.

During a recent visit to the village, Xinhua was told of horrid tales about the extent of Achieng's mental retardation with only few people being about to recognize her.

"That is one woman I admired most," a passerby whispered as he walked past Achieng's homestead. "I liked her courage and confidence. Whenever she spoke, I felt truly a Kenyan."

Achieng's rise to stardom was one of sheer determination and a battle against the odds which catapulted her to cult figure status.

At 27, most pugilists would ordinarily be planning to clear their desks, but that is when Achieng' got started.

She was Kenya's first genuine celebrity, managing to earn considerable media attention even though her earnings were nowhere near her acquired status.

Yet the champion found herself in no man's land: her rare talents and modest achievements were hallowed by most men but not women, or other pro-women groups.

"A role model? I would have exhausted all disciplines before I get down to boxing," one woman replied when asked about her impression of the boxer.

Achieng's talent commitment could have won her more belts and big money, but without the support from women, this talent headed to the wilderness.

Achieng's decision to join the ring was an afterthought; her sojourn in the ring had failed to yield.

She regularly suffered from pecuniary embarrassment, rent arrears; the kind of conditions not sufficient to add weight.

Achieng' was a great boxer, no doubt. What she needed were other two variables to complete the circuit if her dream of making it big were to be realized - promoter and manager and then the rest would follow.

However, Achieng' refused to say whether she had a manager or not. If she had, he must have been the lousy type who wanted to paint her picture as that of dire misery and deprivation.

If the strategy was to attract corporate sponsorship, it was dead on arrival. The corporate world does not give sponsorship to those who need it.

Rather they support those who warrant it. They are not willing to be identified with the topsy-turvy strugglers; it is not good for their image.

Last year, she was arrested after she assaulted and caused bodily harm to her landlord, but her case was dropped after they reached an out-of-court settlement.

Achieng' took to the ring in 2000 after she was inspired by her elder brother Joseph Kusimba who is a former boxer.

She made a professional debut in 2002 in Nairobi during after winning a four-round bout over fellow Kenyan Naomi Wanjiku.

- Xinhua


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