Zambia's leading sportswoman, Esther Phiri, 26, has amassed five boxing titles in only 13 professional fights. An impressive record for someone who grew up with few prospects in a Lusaka township.
Her father died when she was young. There was no money to send her to school and by the time she was 15 she had a daughter. She sold chicken feet at the local market to support her child.
Phiri started going to the gym to lose weight. "I was still selling in the market then. Life was tough. Just training and selling and trying to improve my life." Then a boxing scout recognised her potential.
"I used to watch Laila Ali. She was so pretty, but she could box. I thought: 'I can do that.'" Her success has made her a household name - ranking alongside another Zambian king of the ring, 1970s legend Lottie Mwale.
When "in camp" before a fight, Phiri complains about missing the comforts of home. She now owns six properties. This house was a gift from late President Levy Mwanawasa.
In the run-up to a fight, her day begins with a run and ends at the gym, where she trains with both men and women. The facilities are basic, but there is a strong sense of camaraderie between the boxers.
Bidding for a sixth title, the WIBA Light Welterweight belt, Phiri meets Terri Blair of the USA. She relishes the challenge. "We in Africa tend to put Americans on top, so you feel good fighting an American."
The match goes the full 10 rounds. Both women give their all, but there is nothing to choose between them. The judges declare the bout a draw.
Phiri has been given another shot at the title. Will she take it? She hasn't made up her mind yet. "I need to rest first and then decide." Retirement is another option: "I don't want to do this forever."
Phiri relaxes with her sparring partner Chitalu Mulenga, 17. Her success and independence have been an inspiration to many Zambian women. [Photos and words by Kieron Humphrey]
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