By Sulayman Bah
The stakes are high. His reputation stands on the line and with the arena kingship beyond his reach this season unless otherwise, there won’t be any bigger joy for Balla Gaye than to humble longtime rival Modou Lo for the second time.
So much has happened between the two that their tempestuous relationship is inevitably the main drive in the popularity of the combat. It evokes memory of Yekini versus Mohamed Ndao Tyson’s bitter rivalry. The loathing between the veterans never took a violent turn but it sure hit rooftop. In the end Yekini surfaced as the undisputed champion leaving a disgruntled Tyson shutdown and with the unbearable reality of having to swallow his pride. Balla Gaye vs Modou Lo is today’s version of that generation.
Photo: Balla Gaye on the day he became King of Arena in 2012The former subjected the latter to comprehensive mauling who, nine years on from their first fight, is still in denial and dreams of avenging that defeat. He has been granted his wish following the multi-million CFA deal signing at close end of last year but will he succeed in his endeavour is the billion dollar question on the lips of many.
Balla Gaye goes about preparing for this battle with a sort of dedication never seen in him the last six years. He took a three-month indoor training funded by bosom Aziz Ndiaye at Insep, an enormous gym centre in the heart of Paris boasting state-of-the art equipment.
Lacking then in boxing, Omar Sakho -Balla’s Muslim name – believes his weakness has been remedied at Insep under the supervision of world champions in the sport. This initiative has led majority into concluding bare knuckles fight is unavoidable and Balla Gaye calling out Modou Lo for a 15 minutes boxing on D-day, lend credit to the assertion.
Photo: Balla at his Wednesday night open training at Stade Amadu BarryIn latest images of his Wednesday open training session, Balla boast of a toned physique, a far cry from the day he went about sporting a bulging stomach. This goes to show his readiness for a do or die come Sunday. This fixture won’t be devoid of ambiance, and most importantly, there would be need for flexibility, rapidity, accurate blow-timings including making split second decisions with no room for error, a combination the Lion of Guediawaye possesses.
Sakho suffered consecutive setbacks –relinquishing the title to Bombardier then losing the rematch with Eumeu Sene – prior to indulging into a self-imposed sabbatical from 2016-2017. He returned to wrestle Gris Bordeaux of Club Fass and won on refereeing decision based on warnings accumulated in 2018. In this bout he sought to establish he could defy the odds to combat to the end of allocated time, if need be.
Not very many bookmakers tip him to come of the duel unscathed while some predict a highly likely draw result.
Strategy and Strongest Point
Aside from against Gris, none of Gaye’s 24 games have stretched beyond five minutes. Often he will predict how long the tie will take before going into the arena.
Photo: Balla Gaye subduing Tapha Tine in 2013This time though he has chosen to cut out that habit, appearing to hint willing to exhaust whatever there is of time as long as victory is assured in the end.
Balla is the tallest of the pair. Adopting strategy of letting fly jabs, laced with hooks, uppercuts if necessary, and combinations to keep his adversary at bay should work up some tricks.
Photo: Balla Gaye at his open training on WednesdayModou is calculative and can pose immense danger when allowed to dominate proceedings, a thing Bala will want to put a stop to. This, however, could come with risk of sustaining facial bruises on either side.
Rapidity with quick actions should earn Balla the bragging rights.