Kaloleni Social Hall in Nairobi’s Eastlands will explode into action on Friday and Saturday when 42 boxers slug it out in “Rumble in Kaloleni,” a bid to secure coveted places in Kenya’s “Hit Squad” to April’s Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia.
Apart from heavyweight and super heavyweight categories, which have three boxers each vying, the rest of the weight categories — namely lightfly, fly, bantam, light, light welter, welter, middle and light heavy — have four boxers each.
The final squad of 10 male and two female boxers will represent Kenya in the “Club” Games from April 4-15.
And if the just concluded controversial fifth leg league in Mombasa and the intensified preparations by the pugilists is anything to go by, then Nairobi’s boxing fans should expect a mouth-watering contest.
An eagerly awaited trials, dubbed “The Kaloleni War”, will be the most explosive trials in Kenya in the recent times some pundits aver.
In the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games an awful nine-man “Hit Squad” returned home with a single medal, a bronze courtesy of Olympian Benson Njagiru Gicharu of Kenya Police.
And the predictions by some of the boxers and coaches is not far-fetched as the trials would be a fight between a blend of young and talented boxers seeking to stamp their authority in the ring against an established, experienced and veteran brigand who have donned the national colours, some for the last two decades and still counting.
“Every boxer in the trials has equal chance of clinching the national team berth and this is what is making the contest one of the toughest and hardest to predict,” said Kenya coach Patrick Maina.
In the light flyweight category the stylish and fast rising 23-year-old Shaffi Bakari of Kenya Police, who had sterling performance in the just concluded season, is heavily tipped to reach the last two.
His perennial rival Matayo Keya of Kenya National Hospital will be his biggest challenger.
Besides Matayo, other boxers eying the national slot in the light flyweight include Kevin Muchira of Kenya Defence Force and Nicodemus Kinuthia of Githurai 44, who is not a push over. But if there is one fight that is eagerly being awaited it is the one between Olympian Gicharu and his nemesis Isaac Meja of KDF.
Gicharu, who has ruled the bantamweight for a decade, faces a litmus test in Meja who will be hoping to avenge the controversial 2-1 defeat at the hands of his senior in the last leg in Mombasa.
However, Gicharu who featured in the London 2012 and Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games, has experience on his side. The duo should also watch out for Martin Oduor of of Police and Hamza Said of Coast Combined. Edwin Okong’o of KDF and Humphrey “Jakababa” Ochieng’ of Police are tipped to reach the finals in middleweight.