Kenya’s world boxing champion Fatuma “Iron Fist” Zarika has beaten plenty of odds. Raised in a Nairobi slum, Zarika began to fight her way out of poverty as a single mother at 19. Before making history as the first Kenyan to ever win a World Boxing Council (WBC) global title, she faced a slew of corrupt promoters and managers and oftentimes fought alone. In 2017, she finally saw the fruits of her decade-long labor when she won that WBC bantamweight belt. But even with the history-making win (a feat she shares with boxing legend Laila Ali), poor pay and subpar facilities are still the norm for a female boxer from her country. “I am a champion, but I still don’t make money off boxing alone, so I have to train people,” the Kenyan-Ugandan once told international magazine Ozy. “But I live okay and support my family, so things are good.”
Holding a record of 31 wins, Zarika continues to outbox her opponents (she recently retained her title against Mexican boxer Yamileth Mercado). She is also now sponsored by SportPesa, and although she hasn’t had much luck with gaining positive attention from the Kenyan government, she hopes sports will help heal her native country.