Knockout blow for boxers

Once again, Kenya’s national boxing team, the ‘Hit Squad’, put up a disastrous show with no fighter qualifying for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games from last week’s final Africa qualifiers in Dakar.

It was only Elizabeth Andiego who went far, losing to Moroccan world heavyweight champion Khadija El-Mardi in the final of the middleweight contest. Five boxers lost in the quarter-finals with others six falling in the preliminaries.

Africa was allocated 18 slots where winners in men’s seven weight categories made it to the Paris Games. It’s only Andiego’s category that produced only one boxer but the remaining five had two each qualifying.

Four Kenyan boxers — Nick Okoth, Elly Ajowi, Elizabeth Akinyi and Christine Ongare — qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. It should concern us that the Hit Squad’s performance has been on a downward trajectory with no meaningful remedial action from the Boxing Federation of Kenya (BFK) to address this free fall.

The poor show in Dakar came only a month after the team finished 17th at the Africa Championships in Yaoundé.

The seven medals, all bronze, from Yaounde was a decline from last year’s championships in Maputo where Kenya won three silver and a bronze. With just two more competitive world qualifying tournaments lined up next year in Italy and Thailand, it’s almost certain that we shall field no boxers at the Paris Olympics next summer.

This is a frightening fact, especially given that Kenya was once feared at the major amateur competitions like the Africa Boxing Championships, African Games, King’s Cup, Commonwealth Games and World Boxing Championships.

We also produced an Olympic champion in the late Robert Wangila at the 1988 Seoul Games. Wangila must be turning in his grave as Kenya has now turned into a punching bag.

Sadly, there is nobody to hold the technical bench accountable because a massive conflict of interests at the federation has seen treasurer Benjamin Musa, secretary-general David Munuhe and competition secretary John Waweru double up as the team’s non-performing technical officials.

While we welcome the Hit Squad’s recent 10-day training stint in Havana, we hasten to note that such cameos won't help resolve the disaster in local boxing. An overhaul of the sport’s administration should certainly kick-start a revival of Kenyan boxing.