By Sulayman Bah
EXCLUSIVE: The mention of Badou Jack and Patrick Mendy would be the
almost immediate supplied answer to question over the Gambia’s current
best known actors in the ring. One would be forgiven to think he’s a
rising starlet just beginning to make name for himself despite an
illustrious career spanning as far back twelve years ago.Based in Austria’s primary state Vienna with a bulging 1.794m
population, Omar Jatta, despite a prepossessing boxing exploits, did
not get a mention in the press back home until last week –thirty-five
days after he reduced Turkish-born TurgayUzun, international German
middle lightweight division champion, to a punching bag.
That duel, staged in Hamburg against a man boasting 31 victories in 47
fights, secured him his first boxing silverware, crowning him the
Global Boxing Council world middleweight champion –the first Gambian
to reach such a feat.
The GBC 160 belt is a prized asset any winner would enthusiastically
flaunt and brag about but not Omar Jatta who, now at 36, audaciously
dreams of claiming the ‘world champ’ title.
In an exclusive with Foroyaa Sport from his Salzburg residence, the
five feet, ten inch, on his latest achievement said: This is my first
title and I stand a chance to the IBO title which is among the 5 top
belts in the World’
Omar has stayed away for so long a time but such is his strong Gambian
connection that flying back home tops his agenda –a country he has
only fond memories of.
‘2015, here I am with the most important opportunity of my life -to
represent Gambia on the world stage. And I’m bringing the belt home to
celebrate the victory with the Gambian people. And I want to see more
young Gambian boxers bringing more world titles.’
Born February 14th 1979,Jatta’s rise to prominence did not happen
overnight. Landing in the sores of Europe, the super middle weight
fighter would have been brandishing a rifle as a soldier perhaps in
the confines of Gambia’s military barracks had he not chosen the ring.
Like countless professionals in the rigours of the ring, he had his
inspiration from Galveston Giant named Jack Johnson, the first
African-American world heavyweight boxing champion –son of former
slaves who worked as dish-washers.
He continued: ‘I was inspired by Jack Johnson who became the first
African-American to win the world heavyweight title. If I wasn’t a
boxer, I would have definitely been a Soldier because I wanted to
serve my country in one way or the other. I came to Europe through
boxing’ And, on December 12th 2004 the Gambian had his first taste of boxing
in Austria against Romanian-born Alexandru Manea an opponent which to
this day 8th March 2014 is still to find his first career win in a
total of fifty-four fights.
As hoped, Jatta effortlessly eased past Cruiserweight-ranked Manea aged
38 who, it’s reported, has the worst boxing record of losses in
history. Omar followed up that easy ride with four more triumphs,
three on knock-outs, before defeats crept in –first against
CsabaGyorfi on points, the now 27-year-old Hungarian he later subjected
to severe beatings in a revenge clash in 2007.
Ululating on his then dwindling rate of wins, Omar told Foroyaa Sport:
‘Entering the ring for the first time wasn’t easy. It felt great and
it got me a contract with a boxing agent in Vienna. But the contract
came to an end and I didn’t want to renew it. No not at all (on
whether he at any point got dispirited by the number of defeats). It
made me picked up my gloves and hit the gym to train harder and become a
better boxer that I am today…’
‘The rematch did me good,’ he says on the Csaba combat, ‘because I had
a chance to prove that I’m the better boxer and defeated him.’
Not much losses trailed his pathlater keeping an unblemished record of
being unbeaten for one year three months -last getting spanked in 2013
against undefeated Lagos-born NuhaLawal.
Sixteen wins, nine loses and draw on points is Omar current statistic.
Unlike others, the Gambian is unattached to any promotion agency and
instead does all arrangement of fights by himself. The reason? ‘It’s
hard to find a manager who will help me build my career,’ he says.
The new GBC champion is not your usual average sportsman andholds an
opinion in worldly politics.
‘Send them your heart so they’ll know that someone cares. We are all a
part of God’s great big family’ was his message to his 300-plus
followers attached with a photo of a troubled-looking child clung to
barbwires, in it, bearing these words ‘Freedom for Palestine Boycott
Lifting heavyweights of assorted shapes and sizes is certainly no
child’s play and aware of the rigours and toils in the gym to the risk
of being on the receiving end of a merciless all punching opponent;
Omar knows there will come a moment to apply the breaks on his career.
‘My aim is to retire at the age of 40 but I’ll still be active in
boxing as a promoter and trainer in The Gambia,’ he confidently
concludes expressing gratitude to MOYS Alieu K Jammeh.