By Omulo Okoth
An angry roar of disapproval greeted the loss of flyweight Benson Gicharu Njangiru, the first Kenyan to participate in this Olympics, after judges declared Egyptian Hesham Abdelaal 19-16 winner of the bout at a packed Excel Centre, yesterday.
The crowd, approximately numbering 9,000 in a 10,000-seater indoor stadium, disapproved of Njangiru’s result only minutes after expressing disgust following the defeat of Njangiru’s perennial rival Oteng Oteng of Botswana, who lost to Puerto Rican Jayvier Cintron Ocasio.
But the roar in Njangiru’s decision was more deafening, although the boxer was gracious in defeat, promising to correct the mistakes he learned might have cost him the fight.
“He was exploiting my weakness in countering my punches. I had actually thought about it yesterday (Sunday) and asked my coach to show me how to avoid counter punches, but it seems to have been too late,” an obviously disappointed Njanguri told reporters.
“I take my losses positively these days. I used to get angry long time ago. But I know God has reason for everything that happens to me, this one included,” he said.
“Kenyans must not feel let down by me. I had promised them that I would give it my best shot, and I think I did exactly that.
“I can’t say I was robbed. I take losses as victories,” he said. The Kenyan seemed confident from the start as he bobbed from the dressing room, throwing punches in anticipation. His opponent was taller and had better outreach, but Njangiru, ducked and landed body blows and jabs to the temple quite a few times.
He was particularly impressive in the first two rounds when the Egyptian backpedalled throughout. The only time the Egyptian came out strongly was the opening seconds of the third round, but which seemed to swing the decision in his advantage.
Coaches Patrick ‘Mont’ Waweru and Patrick Thuku were equally devastated.
“We cannot understand this decision because Benson was clearly on the lead,” they told FeverPitch.
Oteng Oteng lost to Ocasio 14-12 in another decision that shocked keen observers. The Botswana boxer, who is Njangiru’s nemesis, was so sure of victory that he started celebrating even before the announcement.