Kenya's Fatuma "Iron Fist" Zarika has blamed inadequate preparations and lack of support from the government for her World Boxing Council (WBC) World super bantamweight title loss.
The 34-year-old Zarika said she was left at the deep of waters when Sportpesa, who were her sponsors, withdrew with the government not living up to the promise to support her.
Zarika relinquished the title on Sunday morning when she lost to Mexican Yamileth "Yeimi" Mercado in a unanimous point decision in Chihuahua, Mexico.
Mercado claimed the sweet revenge with the judges scoring 99-91, 98-92, 99-91in her favour.
Zarika beat Mercado in a split-point decision on September 8 last year, which was her second title defence after having beaten Zambian Catherine Phiri on December 2, 2017.
A furious Zarika said she has no regrets losing the title and stated that there has been no recognition from the government since she made history as the first Kenyan to ever win a WBC World title in 2016 when she beat Jamaican Alicia Ashley in USA.
“I want to tell my fans that I have no regrets or apologies to make to someone. There was no one to support me when I won the belt for the first time. I was alone. It’s only Sportpesa who came through for me,” said Zarika. “I was left alone when Sportpesa withdrew with the government making empty promises.”
“Let the belt remain in Mexico since the government there values and appreciates its sportsmen and women. I feel the pain about what I have gone through when I compare with how Mercado has been treated by her government,” said Zarika questioning if the cash reward structure at the Sports Ministry also includes her case. “Is it a reserve for specific sporting disciplines like athletics?”
Zarika has a rematch against Mercado in 90 days as stipulated by the contract they signed before the bout. “You can’t prepare well for such a big fight without sponsors,” said Zarika.
Zarika now has 32 wins, 13 losses and two draws while Mercado, 21, now has 13 wins and two losses.
However, WBC vice president Houicine Houichi and Kenya Professional Boxing Commission (KPBC) secretary General Frankline Imbenzi issued contradicting statements on whether Zarika will face Mercado in a rematch.
Imbenzi said that a clause in Zarika and Mercado contract stated that there would be a rematch regardless of the outcome in 90 days but Houichi said that Mercado will defend the title in 90 days against Zambian Catharine Phiri with the winner getting a date with Zarika.
“After Zarika’s last fight in Kenya on voluntary basis, the WBC ordered two mandatory fights-the first one against Mercado and the second one against Phiri,” said Houichi. “In case Zarika loses against Mercado, then Mexican must defend the title against Phiri which is the second mandatory defence."
Houichi said if Mercado wins against Phiri, then she can face Zarika on voluntary basis.
“We negotiated and insisted to have a rematch clause in case Zarika was to lose and it went through,” said Imbenzi, who accompanied Zarika to Mexico.