African middleweight champion Rayton Okwiri says he is ready to give up his championship if keeping it will prevent him from representing Kenya at the Olympic qualifiers in Dakar.
The African Boxing Union (ABU) has told Okwiri it will strip the continental crown off him should he participate in the qualifiers for Summer Games which are usually reserved for amateurs.
The Amateur International Boxing Association (AIBA) allowed professional boxers to participate at the Rio 2016 Olympics but the association is now facing suspension from the International Olympics Committee due to issues involving lack of enough finances, ethics and governance.
Okwiri, who has been selected in the national boxing team, was in high spirits saying his decision to relinquish the prestigious title comes after much consultation with his management.
“My coaches and I created a game plan to help me compete in the Intercontinental Arena and eventually the world class category.
“I still have a lot of morale with my mind set on proving myself in an international scene and the Olympics are a perfect platform to start my eyes set on an intercontinental championship after,” the 33-year-old told Citizen Digital.
The Boxing Association of Kenya (BAK) said it did agree with ABU’s stance on the matter, saying Okwiri should be allowed to compete without any fear of losing his title.
“I don’t agree with the union and I think it’s dishonest for them to claim they don’t agree with the AIBA’S directive to allow professionals to compete in the Olympics.
“Last Rio games saw three boxers participate where all lost in their preliminary rounds so if it’s a tactical advantage I don’t think that should a problem,” Duncan Kuria, a communications director at BAK said.
Kuria added Okwiri’s decision is ‘positive’ and he can always continue with his professional career even after the Olympics and if he wins even better
“Okwiri has been in the professional scene for two years now and has participated in only seven fights so I don’t think it would be a problem for him to readjust after the Games.”
Among the 27 boxers a final team of 13 boxers consisting of 8 men and 5 women will be chosen by the end of the month and will embark on a residential training in Nanyuki before they depart for Dakar on February 17.