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John Odhiambho


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One of several African talents bought by the major Danish promoter Mogens Palle in the 70's and early 80's, Kenyan native John Odhiambho was a promising talent who for a while looked like he could really succee and win a world title. He did get one chance at doing that, but he got stopped in the 15th and last round in his sole world title fight. He would fade into obscurity after this disappointment and ended his career only 2 years later, at the age of 31. Despite that one loss to Ossie Ocasio, he managed to beat several top contenders of that time and retired with only 1 loss and 24 wins, 14 by ko.


Odhiambho was born in Kitale, Kenya, on 15 August 1955. As amateur, he qualified for the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, as a light heavy, but his country boycotted the games, like several other African countries. In 1977 he got to the final of the Felix Stamm Memorial International Tournament in Poland. He then decided to go pro and contacted Mogens Palle, who signed him for his Team Palle, back then the only major boxing promotion company in Scandinavia. Odhiambho made his debut 12 June 1980 in Randers, against none other than the former British and Commonwealth light heavy champion Bunny Johnson, who by then was a veteran. After 6 completed rounds, the young Kenyan got the verdict. Next year in October, he beat the seasoned Argentinian Avenemar Peralta by PTS8 and then stopped the former Matthew Saad Muhammad-challenger Louis Pergaud by TKO8 in his next fight. These performances got him a ticket to America, where he would fight on the undercard of a world title lhw fight between Michael Spinks and Mustafa Wasajja, a stablemate of his and another African. It was on 13 February '82 at Playboy Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City when the world first got to see the Kenyan warrior, stopping the solid trialhorse Leonardo Rodgers by TKO6, while his stablemate himself got stopped that same way. On 7 October same year, he fought against Tom Collins, a light heavy puncher, and stopped him by a TKO4 in KB Hallen in Copenhagen. On 11 February next year came his most famous victory, even though it was by default; he fought the former 2-time world champ Marvin Camel, again at KB Hallen, when Camel got cut from an accidental headbutt in round 2 and could not continue, thus officially losing by a TKO.


After winning 3 more fights, he was now 18-0 and suddenly got a crack at the WBA title, held by Ossie Ocasio from Puerto Rico. Naturally, Odhiambho had to go over there to fight and the two commenced on 5 May 1984 at Mets Pavillion in Guaynabo. The fight had come a little too soon for the Kenyan however and it was the first 15-rounder for him as well. He still gave Ocasio a very good fight, but in the late rounds he started to fade and was stopped at 2:24 of the 15th round. Ocasio was known as a clever boxer who had already been in there with some of the best heavyweights of the time and he obviously let the less experienced Odhiambo tire himself out. After this disappointment, Odhiambho was gone from the ring for most of next year, but came back on 1 November and beat journeyman Winston Allen on points. It was a sign that his promise had quickly extinguished and he would never fight a world class fighter again, retiring after 5 more fights, last one on 17 October 1986. He moved back to Kitale after hanging up the gloves.


John Odhiambho was certainly a promising boxer, but he was fed to the lions too soon and had never gone more than 10 rounds before having to fight a 15-round world title fight. Like many other African boxers, he was physically strong, durable and could hit hard. But, fighters like him were never or seldom offered a second world title fight and that sealed his fate and career, you might say. Thank you.

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