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Thursday, August 17, 2017

Shaffi focused

Young boxer Shaffi Bakari, touted as the next big thing on lower weights after Suleiman Bilali, has said he’s ready to fill the void left behind by Olympian and longstanding Kenya’s first choice light-flyweight Peter Mungai when he makes his debut at the AIBA World Boxing Championships that start in Hamburg on August 25.

Longstanding national team boxer Benson Gicharu and AIBA ranked coach Musa Benjamin admitted in an interview that Shaffi is proving to be a celebrity in his own right. “I coached him during the 2011 Commonwealth Junior Championships in Isle of Man and noticed great potential that would take him far. For me, he’s proving that he can be up to the task.”

Gicharu, a back-to-back Olympian in London and Rio complemented Bakari. “He’s the real successor of Bilali and I see no possibility of any boxer beating him anytime soon if he remains focused. He has already overwhelmed his opponents in the class and made it to the World Championships at a time when the global body introduced qualifiers. Previously there were no qualifiers for the world championship. We just went into the event as a team. This is a sign that he has good prospects for Japan 2020 come the continental qualifiers,” said Gicharu.

Reached for comment, southpaw Police constable Bakari said he is not intimidated by the responsibility to continue tormenting his ring adversaries just as Mungai and previously Suleiman Bilali did back then at light flyweight class. “It’s one thing when one showers praises on you, but it’s another thing filling the shoes of your predecessors. “It’s a dream I will fight for to ensure I stay up there. I have always respected the two boxers and it’s a great pleasure and honour to be mentioned alongside great names like Mungai and Bilali who were in the national team for many many years.

“ I will not rest on my laurels. I will continue working hard to ensure I remain at the top in the run up to Japan Olympic Games,” he noted.

Bakari said will be seeking to win gold and emulate legendary Steve Muchoki, who is the only kenyan to havve won the world title 39 years ago in Belgrade.

Coach John Waweru, who trains Bakari, said: “He’s only in his 20s and I believe he still has a lot to do to get up there.”

The three-man Kenya team of Bakari, lightweight Nick Okoth and middleweight John Kyalo is currently in camp at Police Deport in Nairobi’s Mathare under coach David Munuhe.

The German city of Hamburg will play host to host the world’s top 280 elite male boxers for the first time in the new Olympic cycle to Tokyo 2020. Qualification for Hamburg came in the form of the AIBA Continental Championships held between in May and June.

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