•Like in most sports played locally, boxing has suffered immense blows and severe dents due to some laxity in leadership.
•Gone are the golden years when boxing posed a major challenge to athletics during various global interdisciplinary games.
Kenyans are yearning for the good old days when the national boxing team was a force to reckon with— an affirmed world superpower in the realm of pugilists.
Gone are the golden years when the fiery and fierce ‘Hit Squad’ competed head to head with athletics on the medal podium during the world interdisciplinary games.
All that glory has now been washed down the tunnels of history given the country is yet to win a medal since 1988 when Robert Wangila became the first African to bag gold at the Seoul Olympics.
Like in most sports played locally, boxing has suffered immense blows and severe dents due to unnecessary leadership wrangles and vested interests.
The country will now be banking on the incumbent Boxing Federation of Kenya officials to patch up all the chasms that have whipped up disunity and jolted the smooth running of the sport.
The current crop of officials were elected at MISC, Kasarani on June 28, 2019 in an exercise presided over by the Independent Electoral Boundaries Commission (IEBC) and observed by Sports Registrar Rose Wasike and Kenya National Sports Council (KNSC) administrative secretary James Akama.
Anthony Ombok Otieno was elected the new BFK president, ousting long-serving John Kameta.
Others elected were Kenya Police Service veteran tactician David Munuhe (secretary general), Isaac Mbote (First Vice-Chairman), Musa Benjamin (treasurer), Crispine Onyango (assistant secretary), John Waweru (competition secretary) and Joselyn Mare (assistant competition secretary).
Gladys Musafi (Trans Nzoia), Steve Oduor (Busia) and James Ochieng (Siaya) were all incorporated as committee members while Duncan Kuria ‘Sugar Ray’ and Hassan Wafula were appointed part of the executive.
The boxing fraternity is now resting easy after the polls in the hope that the fresh team holds out the much desired change. Otieno and his team have rolled out a long-term plan which they are persuaded will prompt a resurgence of medals in future competitions. Part of his wider plan is to look into ways of improving the boxers’ remuneration package as well as upgrading key training facilities across the country.
“Erstwhile boxers have suffered so much under the previous regime and it has reached a time when our boys and girls have had enough and need a fresh impetus in their careers,” said Otieno.
“All we need is to expose them to a conducive environment and I can assure you that the Wangilas and Muchokis of this world will be forthcoming,” he added.
BFK secretary general, Dave Munuhe,who also doubles up as the national team assistant coach, says that they have already done quite a lot to offer reasonable incentives to local boxers.
“As we speak now, we have already ensured that the national team has a conducive training environment. That’s why we took them to the state of the art gym in Lavington, Nairobi where they can access all the equipment they need for quality training,” says Munuhe. He further says the federation gives the pugilists allowances each time they turn up for training.
“We do appreciate the fact that the boxers have immediate needs to take care of, so we have been offering them a small token just to make sure they settle down and focus fully on their training,” he adds.
To usher in a new era, BFK have appointed an experienced technical bench comprising three individuals, all of whom boast impressive performance track records.
Musa Benjamin was appointed head coach and David Munuhe picked as his assistant while Mbote became team manager.
BFK communications director, Duncan Kuria, has since described the team as the best in the country.
“To me, they are the best coaches the country has in line with AIBA certification. They are among the few three-star coaches in the country,” said Kuria.
To ensure the country travels in tandem with the rest of the world in technical ability, BFK organised a one-week AIBA Star 1 boxing course that saw 20 tacticians certified on completion.
After guiding the ‘Hit Squad’ to the All Africa Games in Rabat, Morocco and the African Boxing Olympics qualifiers in Dakar, Senegal, Munuhe now says they have their eyes next trained on the repechage qualifiers in France, where they hope to charge for more slots in Tokyo.
At least 11 boxers (seven men and four women) will be taking a stab at the next world repechage qualifiers in France set for June this year as the country gropes for more slots to charge for a medal haul in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.
So far, only two boxers are assured of slots in the Kenyan Tokyo-bound contingent. They are Nick Okoth (featherweight) and Christine Ongare (flyweight) who both earned qualifications in Dakar, Senegal.
Kuria says they have invested heavily to aid in launching an abrasive onslaught as the ‘Hit Squad’ go full throttle to reclaim Kenya’s erstwhile glory on the international battlefront.
“We have taken quite a different approach from the past and introduced some key measures in moulding our boxers,” said Kuria.
“We are now actively involving psychologists, nutritionists, physiotherapists to provide all-rounded training sessions. It’s the first time this is happening in our country,” he added.
Coach Musa echoed Kuria’s sentiments observing that Kenya has now adopted more advanced aspects of coaching the game.
“It’s no longer all about sparring and punching away at the bag. Sports has become more scientific and we are engaging experts in our sessions to strengthen our technical and tactical skills,” he said.
Munuhe has also revealed further plans to tap raw talent at the grass-roots in the future through their ‘Ndondi Mashinani’ program.
“Each county will be required to form a select team for the annual national event which we shall use to identify emerging talent,” said Munuhe.
“We have also been engaging schools across the country to work on the most appropriate ways we can employ to introduce programs at that level. Hopefully, we shall be rolling the program anytime soon,” concluded Munuhe.