THOMAS Essomba will look to continue his remarkable journey tomorrow as he fights for his first professional title.
Essomba, who competed in two Olympic Games for Cameroon and captained their boxing team at London 2012 before claiming asylum in England, trains under Phil Jeffries at his Olympian gym, in Sunderland.
I’m always happiest when I fight, because I really like boxing. This is my lifeDaniel Prince
Tomorrow, the 27-year-old takes on Isaac Quaye for the International Masters bronze belt, with the eight-rounder topping the bill on Jeffries’ “Colossal” promotion at Houghton’s Rainton Meadows Arena.
He says he owes a great deal of gratitude to Jeffries and all of those who accepted him and helped him settle on Wearside, and sees tomorrow’s fight as the ideal way to repay some of their faith.
Faith is everything to Essomba, who believes God chose Sunderland as his adopted city, and is now feeling fully settled in the area.
Essomba told the Echo: “When I first came to Sunderland, I didn’t know anything about the city and I didn’t know the language.
“Everything that has happened in my life, God has given to me.
“I just follow that way, and the path God chooses for me, I follow.
“God said, ‘This country will be your country’, and then the people in England helped me and accepted me.
“I need to show them my gratitude, and the best way to do that is in the ring.”
Essomba admits he could barely speak a word of English when he first arrived in Sunderland in the aftermath of the Games, but is now fully up to speed – even if the local accent can sometimes present its difficulties.
The flyweight added: “I gradually started to feel happy here, first of all because of learning the language.
“When I first came here, I couldn’t even say ‘hello’ in English. When somebody said ‘hello’ to me, I said ‘Hello is what?’
“I started to try to talk and to try to understand, and that has helped me a lot.
“I have more friends here now, and they help me to talk and improve my English.
“Sometimes I have to tell people with a North East accent to speak a bit more slowly, though, as that is still a bit difficult for me!”
Essomba has won both of his fights since turning professional last year, and some in the fight game would naturally be wary of facing him.
However, the former Olympian insists fear of opponents never comes into it for him, and he describes boxing as his life.
Essomba continued: “Some people are scared of me because I have only had two professional fights and they haven’t seen me fight much.
“Some of the people in my gym have had something like 25 fights, and they say they would be scared of me.
“But I say, ‘Why are you scared? You have two hands, and so do I!’ It all depends on how you use them.
“I’m always happiest when I fight, because I really like boxing. This is my life.”
Tickets are available on the door at Rainton Meadows Arena or by calling 07747 611020.