Boxing: Lorna's journey, navigating illness and poverty through boxing

The Kenyan boxer took to the sport because of her Asthma and hasn't looked back in the last decade

NEW DELHI:  It will be an understatement to say that Lorna Kusa Simbi, a boxer from Kenya, has had a hard life. Born in the slums near Nairobi, the mother-of-two knows a thing or two about hardships. In a poverty-stricken neighbourhood, drug usage was rampant, especially in her area. From the ghettos to the boxing ring, it has been quite a journey for Lorna. Boxing gave her the ability to distance herself from all that’s ill and gave direction and purpose to her life. The sport mended and healed her.

“It started as a therapy because I was sick. I was asthmatic. I started to manage my condition and eventually, I started to like the game,” she says. Coming from Korogocho, one of the largest slum neighbourhoods of Nairobi, she was always at a disadvantage. Given the struggles at her home then, she couldn’t complete her schooling and had a daughter at a very young age. To add to her complications, she also discovered at a very young age (nine) that she was an asthma patient.

After learning about her health, one of her coaches advised her to visit the gym. That was life-changing. “It has healed. Any time I train it goes. I hope everything goes away. It’s just a condition, I try to manage it. I think it has gone away.”

The sport has helped her come a long way but it’s still a tough gig for the single mother, who also has a son. She has to juggle between boxing and managing her young family, which meant she has missed out on many competitions since she made her international debut (this competition) in 2010.

“I have been on and off for two years. I rested for two years and then I returned to the sport. If I continue training I know I can do better. I was away for eight years. Then I went off in 2019. I had some issues at home. I come from a very poor family. I have to struggle a lot and take care of my family.”

She is not a champion inside the ring, but off it she tries to help her family. That lack of regular competition was evident when she took on Luisa Fernanda Cortes Vasquez of Colombia in the 70kg category in the ongoing IBA Women’s World Championships in New Delhi. Despite throwing the kitchen sink, she lost the contest by a 0-5 verdict. “The match was okay. Despite my opponent being very tough, I managed to do okay. I just need to improve certain things. I’m sure I can do better in the next championships,” Lorna, who was taking part for the third time in the championship, notes.

Monday was a bad day at the office but she walks away with respect. That is also one motivating factor for the 30-year-old, who had entered the New Delhi event as the No 8 seed. “I love boxing because it gives you some respect in society. You gain some admiration. It’s a good sport which helps you attain discipline. I haven’t seen any boxer who’s indisciplined. The sport has taught me a lot to be disciplined. How to cope with society, so I am really thankful.”

Her love for sport runs so deep that she has named her seven-year-old son after boxing great Floyd Mayweather. Seeing her son’s enthusiasm for the sport, Lorna is hopeful that he can follow in her footsteps and retain the family legacy. “He’s a boxer. He’s showing a lot of promise. I have sparring videos of him. I hope he will follow my footsteps and take part in different competitions.”

Her compelling tale would have surely inspired many young women from her country by now.

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