Kenya’s Fatuma “Iron Fist” Zarika will defend her World Boxing Council (WBC) World Super Bantamweight title against Yamileth “Yeimi” Mercado on Sunday in Chihuahua, Mexico.
It will be the second time Zarika and the Mexican Mercado are facing off in a potentially explosive rematch that will take place in the chilly town that is based 1,440km north of Mexico City starting 5am on Sunday (Kenyan time).
The 34-year-old Kenyan won in a controversial split-point decision on September 8 last year in Nairobi, which was her second defence, having beaten Zambia Catherine Phiri on December 2, 2017 in Kenya’s capital city.
Zarika would meet Phiri again in her last defence on March 23, where she once again claimed a unanimous point decision against the battling Zambian.
Zarika said in a telephone interview with Nation Sport that despite having had challenges in training, her experience and change of tactics will carry the day against the 21-year-old Mercado, who has won two title bouts since their last meeting in Nairobi.
Mercado clinched the vacant WBC International female super bantamweight title when she outclassed Alys Sanchez from Venezuela on February 16, before staging a successful defence with another unanimous decision against fellow countrywoman Karina Fernandez on June 28. All the bouts took place in Chihuahua.
“I haven’t prepared well like my two previous bouts. I had to change my coaches and trainers after SportPesa withdrew their sponsorship,” said Zarika, who has a record of 32 wins, 12 losses and two draw (32-12-2).
“I have watched her previous bout and she is bound to employ similar tactics she used in Nairobi hence I will have to move my game to the middle of the ring while avoiding the ropes,” said Zarika.
“I know how to counter her.”
Zarika was accompanied to North America by her trainer Jared Aseka and was joined in her training in Mexico by Herberto Gruzman, who was at one time her trainer in Miami, USA.
Also with Zarika is Kenya Professional Boxing Commission secretary Franklin Imbenzi and her manager Sofia Zarika, her daughter.
It’s in Miami where Zarika made history as the first Kenyan to hold the WBC World title when she beat Jamaican Alicia Ashley in a split point decision to don the super bantamweight belt on October 1, 2016.
“Changing coaches within a short time changes everything and I have basically prepared alone. Well, one shouldn’t always expect everything to run smoothly. It’s how you pull through that defines a champion,” noted Zarika.
Both Zarika and Mercado, who has 12-2-0 record have a chance for a rematch within three months.