Erick Ochieng reflects on his journey to the English title
10:00 27 September 2012
PA Wire/Press Association Images
Former Haringey Police ABC boxer Erick ‘The Eagle’ Ochieng discusses his troubled youth, his rapid progress through the professional ranks and his hopes for the future.
We are walking down Stoke Newington High Road when a man entering a shop stops Erick Ochieng. He asks Erick how the fight went and is delighted when told it went well.
“That guy owns the shop,” says Ochieng while beaming an infectious smile. “He knew about the fight. So did a couple of guys who live in my flats, but walking down the street nobody knows. One day it would be good to be recognised.”
Just a fortnight ago former Haringey Police amateur Ochieng made the second successful defence of his English light-middleweight title at Alexandra Palace.
Having initially beaten Nick Quigley to take the belt in January, Ochieng overcame AA Lowe to retain it in May, and has now triumphed over Ryan Toms to improve his professional record to 11 wins, four draws and one defeat.
“It took a few days to sink in when I first won the title,” says the 25-year-old. “Quigley was a tough fight, but I weathered the storm.
“We train for the unexpected. I can fight off the ropes or I can fight in the middle of the ring. If I get a boxer, I can fight him, if I get a fighter, I can box him. If I get a runner, I can walk him down.”
Ochieng’s description of his troublesome upbringing in north London, following his move from Kenya as an 11-year-old, is as powerful as his punches.
“It was a culture shock. I was living with my mum as my parents were separated and I got caught up in the wrong crowd,” he said.
“I wanted to be like my friends but my mum wouldn’t have it, so I was out of my mum’s and living in foster homes.
“I was a bad boy until I was 14, when the police caught me and my friend after we’d stolen a motorbike. We were taken to court and faced being locked up.”
Following the arrest, Ochieng turned to the religion he had grown up with and became a devout Christian.
“During that whole period I was going to church but I was still on the street doing my own thing,” he said. “But I prayed for help and we were let off.
“I changed my ways but my friend did the same thing again and he’s been in and out of prison ever since.
“I don’t know where he is right now, I hope he’s well, but I realised if it wasn’t for Jesus Christ I’d be locked up with my career washed up, and I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
Ochieng was taken to Haringey Police Boxing Club on Tottenham High Road by a care worker and former boxer, going on to fight 70 times at amateur level before earning a professional contract with Matchroom – and he has gone from strength to strength.
“I’m proud of my team and I am a world champion – the world just doesn’t know it yet,” he said. “I keep saying it because I believe it. Even before my first amateur fight my vision was to be world champion.
“I have a great hunger because I’m getting closer. I want to become a voice for young people and old because it doesn’t matter where you start in life, it’s about where you finish.
“We can’t choose how we start, but it’s our choice who and what we surround ourselves with.”
In a sport where being undefeated is given far too much emphasis, Ochieng remains philosophical about his sole professional loss to Luke Robinson last year.
“When you’re unbeaten your head can get so big you can’t fit through the door,” said Ochieng.
“It was meant to be over six rounds. We were gloved up ready to go and then they told us the fight would be over four rounds. That took us by surprise and Robinson came out like a rocket. I just ran out of time.
“If it was over six rounds I’d have turned it around but that was a blessing in disguise. I had a lot on my mind like the worry of selling tickets – even on the day of the fight.
“I don’t call it a loss, I call it experience. Failing doesn’t mean you’ve failed, it just means you didn’t succeed at that time and there’s less pressure on my shoulders now to keep that ‘zero’ on my record.
“If I meet him [Robinson] again somewhere down the road and he’s in my way then bring it on, I’ll fight him – but I’m not going to go looking for him. Any man can lose and it was only by one point.”
Ochieng laughs when asked about his Erick ‘The Eagle’ ring moniker. “We were thinking about nicknames and my friend said ‘what about Erick the Eagle’?” he recalls.
“I checked it out and discovered that Erick means ‘eternal ruler’ and, as the eagle rules the kingdom of the birds, so as I will come to rule my division.
“I also discovered Eddie the Eagle – that skiier with the big glasses!”
Such is his rise, Ochieng’s next fight is likely to be for the British or Commonwealth title – recognition could well be on the way.