No one has written a book about him yet, but maybe they're still waiting for a happy ending.
When he's close to done, when he's on the backside of his boxing career, maybe the life of junior-middleweight contender Kassim “The Dream” Ouma will have that story-book ending.
But for now, he's got to deal with what's just up the road. That's former world champion Verno Phillips (37-8-1, 19 KOs) who Ouma meets for the IBF title on June 5 in Joplin, MO., on Showtime.
It will be the second meeting between the two, Ouma (19-1-1, 13 KOs) winning their first fight by a close decision back in September, 2001.
If you don't know who Ouma is, he's the guy who was only 7-years-old when he was snatched up by the National Resistance Army in his homeland of Uganda and forced to become a soldier. At the age when most of us were just learning to wipe our noses, Ouma was away from home on the front lines packing a rifle, trying to stay alive.
If you're still not sure who he is, maybe you'll remember him as the promising prizefighter out of West Palm Beach who was the victim of a drive-by shooting back in December, 2002. He lost part of an intestine following the drive-by, and his boxing career took an obvious vacation.
It's funny how some things work. Ouma , 25, survives a brutal war in Africa only to get shot in a Palm Beach County parking lot by a co-worker. There's a book right there.
I remember Ouma because I lived in Palm Beach County at the time of the shooting. A few months later, I ran into him at a fight outside Miami and he told me he was just getting ready to start training again. Short and solid with a big k grin and a nagging accent, he gave me his phone number and I told him I'd get in touch.
I called the local newspaper I was stringing for at the time and asked them if they wanted a story on Ouma making his comeback following the shooting. One of the editors there told me they wanted to stay away from him for awhile because guys involved in drive-by shootings didn't really belong in the sports section. Something about a bad element.
“Maybe later on,” he told me. “If he fights for a title or something.” It's later on and he's fighting for a title or something.
On a conference call earlier this week, Ouma and Phillips talked about their upcoming fight, both sounding like they can't wait for the opening bell.
“I was kind of rusty that first fight,” said Phillips, who took the fight on short notice. “But after the fight with him, I got back in the game. I've beat some of the best since then. It's going to be revenge, not personal, but business.”
Revenge is personal.
“These are two fighters you're talking to,” said Ouma, a southpaw who likes to stay busy. “I am looking forward to a hardcore fight. Not too many fighters would face Verno Phillips. I don't have anything personal with him, but I’m ready for whatever he brings. He’s a warrior and I'm ready to rumble again.”
Going back to their first fight, Phillips said he didn't have any good sparring partners going into the match. That's one of the reasons this fight will be different.
“I called my matchmaker (back then) and he said, ‘Hey, I’ve got a fight for you,' ” Phillips said. “I asked him who it was and he said a guy named Ouma. I never looked him up and didn't know who he was. I found out he was a damn southpaw in the ring.”
And a damn good one at that.