From a high of 1988 when welterweight Robert Napunyi Wangila won Kenya and Africa her first gold medal in boxing at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, the game of boxing in Kenya has hit rock-bottom.
Unending wrangles by officials with bloated egos and parallel tournaments have come to characterise boxing locally as Kenyan pugilists fall behind their opponents in the region.
With a dysfunctional league characterised by claims of open bias, Kenyan boxers have struggled to leave a mark at the African Games (formerly All Africa Games) as qualifying for Olympic Games becomes ever more difficult. Even fewer Kenyan boxers are joining the professional ranks.
The latest round of ego wars is threatening Kenya’s participation in the August 19-31 African Games to be held in Morocco, the African Championships to be held in September, and the World Championships to be held from September 7 to 21 in Russia.
At present, Boxing Association of Kenya (BAK) President John Kameta and First Vice-Chairman Albert Matito can’t agree on the boxing calendar.
Matito’s faction organised Kenya Open Boxing Championship between April 24-27 at Charter Hall, Nairobi in accordance with the schedule agreed upon in a meeting convened by former Sports CS Rashid Echesa. But Kameta organised a parallel tournament days later in Mombasa.
Kameta rejected the unified boxing calendar, saying: “The unified calendar belonged to Echesa. I do not recognise it. Both the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) and Kenya Prisons boxing officials accepted the calendar under duress.
Matito, who is also the president of Kisumu County Boxing Association and former coach of Armed Forces Boxing Association (now Kenya Defence Forces), said his boxers competed in Nairobi event.
“Since when did the Kenya Open Championship go out of Kenya’s capital city?” Matito weighed in, declaring the event in Mombasa a ‘farce.’
“We were supposed to have boxers coming from counties, not clubs like Kangowea. The registered Mombasa County Boxing Association officials brought their boxers to Nairobi,” Matito claimed.
Another divisive issue for both camps is the date for the long overdue BAK elections. Whereas Matito insists that BAK held a full council meeting at the Nairobi Serena Hotel on April 28 that fixed May 28 as the date for the long overdue elections, Kameta insists the meeting that fixed the date for elections was not properly constituted.
“It was only the bonafide BAK affiliates who are authorised to call for a full council meeting,” Kameta said, accusing Matito and his group of trying to take the leadership of the association through the back door.
The divisions have spilled over to the national league, with one group boycotting the first leg of the national league that took place at the Madison Square.