Victor Odindo spent 12 years as a circus performer and travelled the world with two of his brothers.
During a visit to Australia about eight years ago, he fell in love with both the country and a woman from South Australia’s Barossa Valley.
He left the circus three years ago to move to the Barossa and start a new life with his wife and child.
Odindo picked up work on building sites where he was a popular, if quiet, colleague, renowned as a hard worker.
But his introduction to boxing, like his background, is somewhat unorthodox.
Odindo’s wife noticed her husband needed an athletic outlet due to the fact he was no longer training for circus acts.
She made contact with Barossa Boxing coach Aaron Smith and asked if her husband could come and do some training.
“Victor rocked up and we were training at the local fitness centre at Tanunda and on the squash court,” Smith recalls.
“It looked like he’d done boxing before, to be honest, and I had to ask him because I actually thought he might have been one of the Olympic Games or Commonwealth Games athletes who had defected, because I have come across them before.
“But having spoken to him, and seen his reactions to things, I know that everything he’s doing in boxing, he’s doing for the first time.”
Smith recognised Odindo had something special and urged him to take up the sport competitively.
Feeling guilty for harming opponents
Admitting he’d never had any interest in boxing, Odindo took a shot on his coach’s word.
“I’ve seen the way he trains people, the way he does his work in boxing and he’s got experience, and as soon as I saw that I had no doubt,” Odindo said.
“If he sees something in me, there must be something in me.”
But it didn’t all come naturally to the Australian resident.
While sparring with another boxer, a punch caught his opponent on the nose and caused it to bleed.
Odindo stopped the fight because he felt guilty about harming another person.
On another occasion he saw another boxer knocked out cold and felt ill.
On both occasions, Smith had to remind Odindo that injuries were part of the sport and he would have to get used to both receiving and inflicting them.
Unbeaten with four wins via knockout
Odindo skipped the amateur ranks and went straight into professional boxing, having his first fight in Melbourne during March 2016 against West Australian debutant Paul Gould.
The Kenyan won that bout by knockout, as he did his next fight a year later against another debutant, Tasmanian Jack Unwin.
Odindo has, in fact, won all four of his fights to date by knockout, culminating in a third-round knockout of Warrnambool boxer Gregory Bell in October.
What makes it more impressive is that Odindo has fought outside his weight class against guys sometimes up to 7 inches taller than him and most with more experience.
“He’s got the power. He’s got the strength. He’s got the agility. All would have come from his acrobatics,” Smith proudly claimed.
“You can imagine the timing that you have to have when you’re being catapulted off a see-saw 3 or 4 metres in the air and landing on somebody’s shoulders. You have to be very precise and that’s what he is.
“But he’s also a hard worker, always doing more than I ask.
“He’ll come to the gym from work in his car, pull his bike out, ride 7 kilometres home, then jog 7 kilometres back, train for an hour-and-a half, then drive home, so he’ll do that off his own bat.”
At 31 Odindo is quickly making up for lost time, becoming renowned for his acrobatic celebrations after winning fights.
After initially warning Smith not to let her husband get harmed, Odindo’s wife Bronnie has warmed to his competitive fighting after seeing how good he is, even researching and suggesting opponents for him.
Odindo impresses Jeff Fenech
Three-time world champion Jeff Fenech was told to check out Odindo in a video sent to him by a boxing reporter from the Gold Coast, Taylor Christies.
“I watched the video and my first impression was ‘Wow, this lady is a great judge,’ then I got to watch him live in Melbourne and I thought ‘Wow, what an amazing prospect for a kid who had never boxed in his life obviously who is very athletic in his previous job’,” Fenech recounted.
“He’s certainly got some ability in the boxing ring.
“He’s fighting guys who are bigger than him, more experienced than him and he’s knocking them all out.
“Looking at the people he’s beaten, the way he’s beaten them and what he’s done in such a short space of time, it’s pretty remarkable.”
Smith thinks the hype on his 163-centimetre, 65-kilogram talent is justified.
“It’s not very often that guys will go pro straight off the bat with no experience whatsoever and get a win straight away, let alone four by knockout, especially against guys who have had experience with 10 or 15 fights,” he said.
“I don’t know any champions who could say that, especially when you consider he’s also fought out of his weight class too and against guys who are 7or 8 inches taller than him.
“He’s like a little Mike Tyson, in that he’s giving away height and weight.”
Odindo ‘certainly gifted’
Fenech stopped short of comparisons but suggested a World Title was not out of the question.
“He’s got a great career ahead of him if he knuckles down and does everything right. The world is at his feet,” he said.
“Some guys are just born to do things. Some are gifted. I think he’s certainly gifted.”
And while modesty is not usually associated with professional boxers, Odindo has broken the mould.
“I take in the nice feedback. It’s unexpected, and it’s pretty big,” he said.
“It’s motivating to hear people like Jeff Fenech saying nice things but I don’t know if I will ever be the best. All I can do is try my best.”