Came to town for Kenyans to watch live

Daily Nation (Kenya) - - SPORT -

from what Gill had told me. He was a na­tive of Ben­gal in In­dia, a place where tigers roamed the forests. From an early age, he showed a courage to match the fe­ro­cious cats and so when he took up pro­fes­sional wrestling, it was nat­u­ral that fans nick­named him “Tiger.”

Yet when you met him, you found a sur­pris­ingly gen­tle giant. Al­though his tow­er­ing height, great bulk and rough hands never made you for­get in whose com­pany you were, his voice, his eyes and his body lan­guage were full of as­sur­ance: he was your friend.

“Gill,” I asked him, “some peo­ple say wrestling is all made up; that it is just en­ter­tain­ment. They say those blows are not for real. Tell me the truth.”

Gill paused and took in a lit­tle breath and lifted his eyes from the floor. Then with barely con­trolled emo­tion, he said to me: “The last thing I do be­fore I go into the ring is to pray that I don’t get killed. Pray­ing is my first move be­fore I make con­tact with my op­po­nent. I ask God to al­low me to leave the ring as I walked into it. The peo­ple who say those things don’t know what they are talk­ing about. Wrestling is a fight­ing sport. You can get hurt.”

If “Honey Boy” Zimba was loved by the crowds, “Bad Boy” Tally-ho Kaye was loathed to the ends of the earth. When look­ing for bio data on the vis­it­ing wrestlers, this is what I saw: “Tally-ho Kaye. He is a top Bri­tish bad-boy of the wrestling ring. He is hated by the fans for his il­le­gal tac­tics. He goes into ac­tion right from the first bell at an all-out speed and is de­ter­mined to win at all costs. Out­side the ring, he is a farmer who breeds horses. His spe­cialty is throw­ing his op­po­nent out of the ring.”

At the KICC, “Bad Boy” Tally-ho Kaye did not dis­ap­point – or rather, he dis­ap­pointed as ex­pected and so com­pre­hen­sively that those who keep sane by hat­ing got a new lease of life.

Wade Huie wrote for Na­tion Sport: “In ear­lier matches, “Lit­tle Prince” Mo­hammed Alam, spurred on by his rel­a­tives and the rest of the cheer­ing crowd, over­whelmed Tally-ho Kaye, who showed the wear and tear of his fright the pre­vi­ous night. “Lit­tle Prince” was in com­mand all the way, at times hav­ing Tally-ho Kaye cring­ing on the ropes or on his knees beg­ging for mercy. When none was forth­com­ing, Tally-ho Kaye re­sorted to a kick on the groin forc­ing ref­eree Peter Sza­kacs to award the rightly de­served vic­tory to Alam ear­lier than ex­pected.”

Box­ing gave the English lan­guage the phrase “hit­ting be­low the belt” to de­fine ag­gres­sive ac­tion in the area where it hurts a man the most. In time, the phrase came to mean do­ing some­thing un­fair to some­body else. In the world of “Bad Boy” Tally-ho Kaye, go­ing for that zone was fair game. It earned him so much ha­tred you al­most felt as if the men in the crowd were ac­tu­ally feeling the pain he had in­flicted on his op­po­nent, in­clud­ing the cu­ri­ously nick-named Syd “Cry Baby” Cooper.

The chair­man of the Kenya Ama­teur Wrestling As­so­ci­a­tion at the time all this was hap­pen­ing was a man called Ndi­rangu. I tried hard to get him to have his take on what was go­ing on be­cause it seemed all of Nairobi was talk­ing about wrestling. There were no mo­bile phones then and I was al­most giv­ing up when by hap­pen­stance I bumped into him near the law courts on City Hall Way. I asked him whether he had watched the wrestling at KICC and what he thought about the tour. I am sure I de­tected a hint of an­noy­ance in his de­meanour which he was wrestling to con­tain. Then he told me: “I wish you could stop writ­ing about these for­eign­ers and con­cen­trate on our peo­ple. This is not wrestling. This is en­ter­tain­ment. You news­pa­per peo­ple should try to be more pa­tri­otic.”

I was right, he was an­gry. Now he was openly show­ing it. I tried to nudge him to at least say some­thing on the world tele­vi­sion stars en­thralling Kenyans “live” but he could only say with ev­i­dent im­pa­tience: “Ask me about our peo­ple and we can talk. But I have noth­ing to tell you about for­eign en­ter­tain­ers.”

Okay, thanks, I said and we went our separate ways. But there were no hard feel­ings, just busi­ness. When next I wanted to write about lo­cal wrestling, Ndi­rangu was more than forth­com­ing. But be­fore that, I had plenty of writ­ing to do about the for­eign­ers he didn’t want any­thing to do with.

Do you re­mem­ber any of these names: Johnny Saint, John Nay­lor, Ray “Thun­der” Glen-den­ning, Ray Steele, “Gold-belt” Max­ine, Billy “Tor­nado” Toron­tos, “Billy Boy” Muia and Mick Mcmichael? I watched them all in Nairobi and not in some Euro­pean city. We asked for them and…we got them!

PHOTO | FILE

Bri­tish wrestler Mick Mcmichael (right) fights his op­po­nent Tally Ho Kaye in this un­dated pic­ture.

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