‘Cornered’ Hit Squad fights for survival in Paris Olympics qualifiers

Friza Anyango

Kenya’s boxing coach Benjamin Musa (left) and his assistant David Munuhe (centre) pass instructions to Friza Anyango during a past training session at Police Depot, Mathare, Nairobi.  

Photo credit: Pool

What you need to know:

  • Qualification opportunities are dwindling by the day for Kenyan boxers.
  • The ‘Hit Squad’ only have three bouts left at the 2024 Boxing Second World Qualification.

Kenya’s “Hit Squad” hopes of qualifying for the 2024 Paris Olympics hang in the hands of two boxers at the 2024 Boxing Second World Qualification Tournament in Bangkok.

The ‘Hit Squad’ only have three bouts left in the event being held at Indoor Huamark Stadium.

The dangling hope is in women’s 66kg - welterweight - where rookie Friza Anyango faces Sonvico Emille (France), while Peter Abuti - another newcomer in the global ring - will face the winner of round 32, pitting Polish Mateusz Bereznick against Australian Adrian Paolletti on Thursday in the 92kg - heavyweight category.

Martha Amina (bantamweight) was due to fight Mongolian Munguntsetseg En Khjargal in the Round of 32 Tuesday last evening.

The "Hit Squad" members who have exited the tournament include 75kg-middleweight Elizabeth Andiego, 80kg-light-heavyweight Edwin Okong’o and deputy captain Boniface Mogunde.

Qualification opportunities are dwindling by the day as the second World Qualification Tournament enters the home stretch.

Not even the training in Cuba, one of the boxing powerhouses in the history of the Olympic Games, could salvage the image of "Hit Squad."

Cuban boxers have clinched 41 Olympic gold medals in the Olympics. Only the Americans have won more (50). Cuban boxers have collected 78 Olympic medals in boxing, emerging as the nation with the third most podium finishes.

After a disastrous outing at Dakar, Senegal, last September and at the first World Qualification Tournament in Busto Arsizio, Italy, there is no reprieve for the "Hit Squad" in Bangkok.

Bangkok offered Kenyan boxers a final chance to secure a quota for the Olympic Games Paris 2024.

When the "Hit Squad" arrived in Bangkok, president of the Boxing Federation of Kenya (BFK) Anthony “Jamal” Ombok, who was accompanying the team, said they were razor sharp and ready for second-world Olympics qualifiers.

Jamal described the elimination of Okong’o and Andiego as a “sad day for the Hit Squad."

German Irina Nicoletta Schoenberger defeated Andiego with a resounding 5:0 unanimous decision on Monday.

The German will face Mexico’s Citlalli Vanessa Ortiz, also known as “Bellatrix,” who outclassed her opponent from New Zealand, Deanne Shontel te-paea Read, in the Round of 16 today.

Okong’o lost on points to Dalai Ganzorig of Mongolia in the Round of 32 in the light-heavyweight on Monday.

“We gave our best shot,” Jamal, who was elected BFK president in 2019, posted on his Facebook page.

Robert Napunyi Wangila (welterweight) and Chris Sande (middleweight) won gold and bronze medals at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

Philip Waruinge took bronze in the 1968 Mexico City Olympics and silver in the 1972 Munich Olympics.

Ibrahim Bilali (lightweight) won bronze in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, while Dick Murunga (welterweight) clinched a bronze in the 1972 Olympics in Munich.