‘Commander’ Okoth leads troops into Tokyo ring

Hit Squad members Elly Ajowi (left) and Nick "Commander" Okoth (right)

Elly Ajowi (left) and Nick "Commander" Okoth (right) and referee Nelson Otieno display their trophies and medals at the Konstantin Kototkov Memorial Boxing tournament that ended May 15, 2021 in Khabarovsk, Russia. Okoth is expected to lead from the front as he launches Kenya’s Olympics campaign in the ring with an opening bout against Mongolia’s Tsendbaater Erdenebat on Saturday afternoon.

Photo credit: Pool

What you need to know:

  • Okoth faces the 24-year-old 2018 Asian Games winner in a featherweight (52-57kg) bout from 6.51pm local time (12.51pm Kenyan time) at the Kokugikan Arena
  • “Ghetto Girl” Ongare is two years her junior, battle-hardened and most likely should be favourite here
  • Ajowi will fight the Cuban on Tuesday from 6.36pm (12.36pm Kenyan time) while Akinyi’s bout is programmed for 8.12pm (2.12pm) also on Tuesday

In Tokyo

Boxing captain Nick Okoth is expected to lead from the front as he launches Kenya’s Olympics campaign in the ring with an opening bout against Mongolia’s Tsendbaater Erdenebat on Saturday afternoon.

Okoth faces the 24-year-old 2018 Asian Games winner in a featherweight (52-57kg) bout from 6.51pm local time (12.51pm Kenyan time) at the Kokugikan Arena.

Erdenebat, an orthodox boxer, was ranked fifth at the Rio Olympics in the bantamweight and the Masters in International Sports is no pushover, standing between the Kenyan soldier and a possible cruise into the medals bracket.

“The Mongolian is a very experienced fighter and Nick needs to bring his ‘A’ game because should he go through, then he has a clear shot at the quarters and semis,” boxing team manager Duncan “Sugar Ray” Kuria analysed the bout last night.

Okoth “Commander” is 14 years Erdenebat’s senior and experience could play to the Kenya Defence Forces fighter’s advantage.

Second in action for Kenya on Sunday morning at 11.15am local time (5.15am Kenyan time) is Christine Ongare in the flyweight (48-51kg) who comes up against Irish Magno of the Philipines.

“We don’t know the opponent too well but we expect a competitive fight,” Kuria noted.

The 29-year-old Manila-based Magno is a student in criminology at the University of Baguio back home and is an orthodox fighter ranked ninth at the 2018 Asian Games.

“Ghetto Girl” Ongare is two years her junior, battle-hardened and most likely should be favourite here.

Heavyweight Elly Ajowi (81-91) and welterweight (64-69kg) Elizabeth Akinyi have both received byes in the opening round and will come up against Cuba’s Julio la Cruz and Alcinda Helena Panguana of Mozambique, respectively, in the second round.

“The Mozambican is strong and is seeded second and also defeated Elizabeth in our last contest in DR Congo so it’s going to be a tough contest, although Elizabeth will have the advantage of having known her opponent more,” Kuria assessed.

He conceded that Ajowi has a mountain to climb against the Cuban.

“The Cuban is a very experienced fighter who has won the World Championships four times in different weight categories and Elly has to up his game to get a result,” he warned.

Ajowi will fight the Cuban on Tuesday from 6.36pm (12.36pm Kenyan time) while Akinyi’s bout is programmed for 8.12pm (2.12pm) also on Tuesday.

The boxing nation of Cuba has won 37 Olympic gold medals in boxing, 26 more than in any other sport.

Lazaro Alvarez, 30, of Cuba could become the first boxer to win an Olympic medal at three different weights when the boxing competition starts on Saturday at Kokugikan Arena.

Meanwhile, in taekwondo, Kenya’s lone exponent Faith Ogalo has been drawn to fight against Serbia’s Milica Mandic in her opening contest on Tuesday.

Taekwondo team leader Suleiman Sumba said Thursday night he was happy with the draw.

“The draw is OK and we are looking forward to a medal at these Olympics,” he said.

“It’s been a tough journey trying to get points at the G4 and G2 championships but I think we are ready.”

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