Mission Impossible: Big blow for boxers in quest for Olympic glory

Sarah "Angel of War" Achieng of Kenya fight Edith Soledad Matthysse of Argentina during their World Boxing Foundation (WBF) Womens World Super lightweight title bout at Charter Hall, Nairobi on June 10, 2023. Achieng was crowned champion on unanimous points decision. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

In yet another failed mission, Kenyan boxers will not be taking part in the 2024 Paris Olympics.

The Kenyans had hoped to qualify for Summer Games but their efforts were dashed at the Africa Olympic Qualifiers in Dakar, Senegal in May.

It was a bitter pill to swallow on the part of players and the technical bench for failing to make it during the continental qualifiers.

Hopes were high as they headed for the qualifiers in Senegal, but after their failure, they still have a chance at the World Olympic Qualifiers.

A total of 235 boxers from 41 African countries were in Senegal battling for the 18 slots awarded to Africa Boxing Federation (AFBC) by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Kenya sent 13 boxers – seven male and six female boxers to the continental qualifiers just like hosts Senegal and Morocco, as Algeria and Ghana had 12 boxers each.

Kenyan boxers in Senegal were captain and Africa Zone Three heavyweight gold medallist Elizabeth Andiego, zonal flyweight champion David Karanja, featherweight David Njau, lightweight Ethan Maina, light middleweight Boniface Mogunde, heavyweight Peter Abuti and super heavyweight Fred Ramogi.

Others were former Commonwealth flyweight bronze medallist Christine Ongare, bantamweight Amina Martha, featherweight Pauline Chege, lightweight Teresia Wanjiru and welterweight Friza Anyango.

And before they took a flight to Dakar, the 13 boxers had a 10-day intensive specialised-training in Havana, Cuba where they trained with the Cuban National Team and met top world class coaches.

Africa Zone Three Boxing Championships light heavyweight gold medalist Elizabeth Andiego in a training session for the 22nd edition of Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England starting on July 30th, 2022. [File]

This was after the team had taken part in Africa boxing Championships in Yaoundé, Cameroon from July 25 to August 6 where seven boxers won bronze medals.

Each medallist was awarded with Sh711,814. The medallists are Andiego (Elizabeth), Karanja(David), heavyweight Robert Okaka, Ongare (Christine), bantamweight Amina Martha, bantamweight Hassan Shaffi Bakari and heavyweight Peter Abuti.

Despite the shortfall, national boxing team coach Musa Benjamin said all was not lost as they still have another chance at the two legs of the World Olympic Qualifiers to be hosted in Italy and Thailand next year.

The first qualifier is set for Busto Arsizio in northern Italy from February 29 to March 12 for 49 boxers (21 women and 28 men).

The second global qualifier will be in Bangkok, Thailand on May 23 to June 3 aimed at having 51 more boxers gain their tickets to the games.

Their dismal performance just came after an improved performance in the World Boxing Championships where for the first time in three decades three boxers reached the pre-quarterfinals.

The trio that cruised to the pre-quarters was deputy captain and light middleweight Boniface Mogunde, Africa Zone Three flyweight champion David Karanja and national cruiserweight champion Hezron Maganga.

Mogunde defeated Hield Carl Leviticus on unanimous points decision in the round of 64 but lost in the round of 32 as Karanja and Maganga lost in the last 16.

Karanja lost to experienced 2021 World Boxing Championships bantamweight (54kg) gold medallist Tomoya Tsuboi of Japan in a pre-quarterfinal bout, while Maganga lost to experienced Russian Sharabutdin Ataev on unanimous points’ decision.

The global event was hosted in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, from April 30 to May 14, 2023.

“We are headed in the right direction as we take a step at a time until we get to where we were. It is a matter of time before we become another powerhouse as was before,” said Benjamin.

Trainer Maurice Odero with boxer Albert Kimario at PalPal hall in Nairobi. June 30, 2023.[File]

The last time Kenya won a bout at the event was when professional middleweight boxer Rayton Okwiri outpointed Erkin Bolotbek of Kyrgyzstan in the opening round at the 2013 World Championships in Almaty, Kazakhstan before he later lost to Fred Evans of Wales in a pre-quarters match.

This year, Olympian and Africa Zone Three super heavyweight gold medallist Elly Ajowi hanged his gloves on July 15 having represented Kenya in different international assignments for the past two decades.

They include Africa Zone Three Boxing Championships, Africa Boxing Championships, All Africa Games, Africa Olympic Qualifiers, Commonwealth Games, World Boxing Championships and the Olympics.

His last international assignment before his retirement was at the global championships in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

Ajowi said it was time to pave the way for young boxers to improve on what they never achieved in his career.

As the year was coming to a close, league champions Kenya Police retained the title for the sixth consecutive year.

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