•Boxers from Bonde slum made up the biggest chunk of St Teresa’s production line.
•Okinyi retired from the sport in 2008— the same year his brother Nick made his debut in Olympics.
Siblings Nicholas Okongo ‘Commander’ Okoth, Absalom ‘Diblo’ Okinyi, Steve Omondi and Paul ‘Polipo’ Ouma live and dream boxing.
And it doesn’t stop there. Their first cousin Edwin Okongo (a Senior Private at Moi Air Base) is also gifted with dazzling boxing skills and has donned national team colours on several occasions.
Like the other four, the Okongo better known as ‘Ocox’ is very level-headed and focused.
They are all very enthusiastic about the sport which has transformed their lives and they all possess swift and solid punching abilities.
What’s more, they have the resilience, fighting spirit and considerable amounts of commitment which speak volumes about their success in the ring.
Such are interesting facets of their flair which endear them to fans countrywide. They all learnt the ropes as the residence of Bonde suburb (opposite Moi Air Base) in Nairobi’s sprawling Mathare slum which has produced some of Kenyans finest including celebrated brothers (of yore), Kenneth Ochieng’ ‘Valdez’ and Chris Sande, who bagged silver at the Seoul Olympic Games in 1988.
“Bonde was then notorious for street bullies and to survive there, you had to be tough hence the need to jab even more. But all in all, boxing has been our life and passion and the sport has transformed our lives and enabled us to trot the globe,” Okinyi, a police constable based at Baringo South DCI said.
Okinyi, Okoth, their cousin and his two brothers are all products of the famous St. Teresa’s Undugu Amateur Boxing Club at Eastleigh Section 1, where they realised their boxing potential under the tutelage of current Team Kenya coach Musa Benjamin and Valdez, who represented Kenya and savoured semi-pro ranks in Denmark.
Boxers from Bonde slum made up the biggest chunk of St Teresa’s production line. The four brothers are all orthodox boxers who have over the years troubled their southpaw opponents. That is where their similarities end.
While the eldest Okinyi and second-born Ouma have retired from play, Omondi, who is the youngest of the four, cousin Okongo and Olympian Okoth are still active.
Okongo turns out for army side (Afaba) and has represented Kenya in big events including the 2018 Indian Open and Gold Coast Commonwealth Games— exiting in the round of 16 in both events. He also boxed in the Kenya Open Championships in 2018 and 2019.
Okoth, a corporal at Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) is currently the finest boxer in the Kenyan squad at the moment and the only Olympian in his family.
His litany of achievements includes winning a bantamweight bronze at the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games and a lightweight bronze at the 2015 Brazzaville All Africa Games. Okoth clinched gold at the 2015 African Boxing Championship also in Congo Brazzaville and went on to rack up African Zone 5 gold at Kasarani in 2005.
He also won gold at the Africa Olympics qualifiers in Namibia in 2008 hence qualifying for Beijing Summer Games, where he lost to Mexican Arturo Santos Reyes in preliminary rounds on his debut.
Born on March 3, 1983, Nick will alongside Christine Ongare, return to the Olympics in Tokyo next year after a 12-year hiatus from the games. He qualified in Dakar, Senegal last February.
Okinyi retired from the sport in 2008— the same year his brother Nick made his debut in Olympics.
He started his career while still in Standard 5 and went through requisite junior ranks before joining Undugu at lightweight and later Police ‘Chafua Chafua’ as a welterweight hence ruling the roost with exceptional quality of jabs and hooks.
Okinyi, who clinched a silver medal at the 98 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, is regarded as the best boxer in their family, according to boxing doyens.
He also won gold medals at both the Africa Zone 5 and Brunners Urafiki and twice lost in the quarters of the All Africa Games in Abuja 2003 and Johannesburg 99’. He was a longstanding Kenya Open champion at welterweight and a national team mainstay.
“Diblo is a typical boxer. His technical finesse classified him among the best in his generation. Lightweight Ouma was naturally a slugger with terrific body blows and straight punches. He had height issues, being short and sturdy. Nick is kind of a pressure boxer who can fight and box at the same time. Weaving, bobbing and ducking, Nick torments his opponents with incessant punches and has amazing hand speed, by and large, his strong point on the canvas. Steve, on the other hand, is a hard puncher and a fighter,” explained coach Musa.
Ouma hung his gloves in 2003 following a terrific accident near Moi Forces Academy, which brought to an end a promising career.
He had caught the eye of then-Police coach Patrick “Mont” Waweru who was contemplating recruiting him in the ‘Chafua Chafua’ squad.
“The accident happened near Moi Forces Academy, where I broke my hand and couldn’t fight anymore. It was such a painful experience mentally knowing that my career in boxing had come to an excruciating end,” said Ouma.
Ouma won the National Boxing Intermediates in 1999 and went all the way to the Kenya Open in Nakuru, losing in the final to Samson Macharia in a controversial bout. Four years ago, Omondi won the Kenya Novice Championship and represented Nairobi in the Inter-Cities event in Dar-es-salaam, losing in the finals. Omondi had a stint at Prisons after his formative years of play at Undugu.
Okinyi born on March 17, 1974, is grateful that sport is helping countless other boys from slums escape poverty. He explains: “I would have been a nobody if I hadn’t realised the potential I had in the sport. I wish to thank my mentors Musa and Valdez for their support and advice. It’s through my association with them and involvement in the sport that my brothers followed suit.”
Okinyi has had a burning desire to groom the next generation of boxers in Mathare slum, where drug abuse and peer pressure are the order of the day. He, however, fears that his dream to discover the next crop of champions from Mathare may not come to fruition, after all.
“My dream to give back to the youths of Mathare was nipped in the bud three years ago when I got transferred to Marigat, where I have spent three years. But once in a while when I am back in Nairobi, I try my best to get together with the youths. I have always wanted to be a good example for the youths in Mathare but due to my work station, it’s quite difficult to hack it,” said Okinyi.
Okoth,37, is a Corporal at Kenya Defence Forces (KDF). He has three more years left before reaching the maximum age of 40 as stipulated by world governing body, AIBA.
Forty years is the upper limit in AIBA Competition Rules and one can’t compete at the Olympics beyond that age whether pro or amateur, according to Boxing Federation of Kenya public relations Officer, Duncan ‘Sugar Ray’ Kuria.
What this means is that the Tokyo Summer Games will be Okoth’s last Olympic in whatever capacity.
“I want to nurture the next crop of upcoming and future boxers at KDF. After Tokyo, I aspire to join the coaching brigade of our team since rules will bar me from competing as an amateur boxer. But I will hang up my gloves once I feel I can’t jab anymore. So it’s a matter of weighing my options and pushing my strength as far as it can go. Turning pro isn’t an option.”