Kenya’s lightweight Nick Okoth won gold medal in the Africa Confederation Boxing Championship to confirm his place in the men’s 2017 AIBA World Championship slated for Hamburg, Germany later in the year.
The 34-year-old boxer is among the three male Kenyan boxers who have qualified for the global show with bronze medalists John Kyalo (middleweight) and Shaffi Bakari (light flyweight) as the others. During the event, which concluded in Brazzaville, Congo over the weekend, two Kenyan lady boxers Elizabeth Akinyi (middleweight) and Christine Ongare also lost in the semifinals to clinch bronze medals.
It was a great return for the “Hit Squad” which had fielded a full team of 10 male boxers after skipping the continental championship for over a decade.
Okoth, who played at the Beijing 2008 Olympics as a featherweight, savoured the lightweight gold medal in Brazzaville to keep his hopes for Japan 2020 alive.
Okoth beat Reda Benbaziz of Algeria to the lightweight (60kg) gold in Brazzaville. But Namibia’s Matias Hamunyela continued the country’s strong tradition at light flyweight (49kg) when he defeated Kenya’s Hassan Shaffi Bakari in the semis.
Egypt’s double-Olympian Hossam Hussein Bakr Abdin was back to his best when he beat Kenya’s John Nzioka Kyalo to reach the middleweight (75kg) final.
Okoth, a younger sibling of Kuala Lumpur 1998 Commonwealth Games silver medalist Absalom Okinyi, is seeking to qualify for a second career Olympic Games in a decade that has seen him reign supreme locally before to moving up to the lightweight division.
In the Beijing summer games, Okoth lost his debut to Mexican Arturo Santos Reyes after winning the second AIBA Africa Olympics qualifiers in Windhoek in March 2008. The first batch of Team Kenya was expected to return later yesterday with the rest scheduled to jet in today.
Meanwhile, two time Olympian Benson Gicharu who skipped the event due to a shoulder injury has congratulated the Kenyan boxers, saying the sport is headed towards the right direction. “I have been in the Kenyan boxing fraternity for a while and I am always optimistic that in due time, Kenyan boxing will take its shape once again. I attended the recent league leg in Thika and I can attest to the fact that the standards of boxing have really improved. Let’s continue supporting the boys and keep them in our prayers,” said Gicharu.
In the men’s semis, 16 nations were represented, and while their qualification for Hamburg was already secured, the battle for the AFBC titles remains as strong as ever. World silver medallist in Doha two years ago, Algerian flyweight Mohamed Flissi was back in sparkling form as he overcame Madagascar’s Marco Jerome Andrianarivelo to set up a gold-medal match-up with Botswana’s Youth Africa Games winner Mohamed Otukile Rajab.
The Hamburg show has attracted world’s top 280 elite male boxers for the first time in the new Olympic cycle to Tokyo 2020. Qualification for Hamburg comes in the form of the AIBA continental championships held between May and June.