• Mugunde said he will use the Tanzanian trip to sharpen his talons for the World Championships in Kazakhstan.
• Musa said the Tanzanian tournament will help fine-tune the players, especially the men’s category ahead of the IBA World Boxing Championships in Kazakhstan.
The national boxing team, Hit Squad, head to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania on Sunday for the third edition of the Africa Zone 3 Boxing Championships set for between April 18 and 23.
The team will be aiming to redeem their battered and bruised image at the just concluded IBA World Women’s Boxing Championship where all the 11 boxers to the event returned home empty-handed.
The Boxing Federation of Kenya believes the Tanzanian sojourn will offer the local pugilists an opportunity to gauge their potential ahead of the 2023 African Games in Ghana as well as the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.
Previously known to cause successive storms in major competitions such as Africa Boxing Championships, African Games, King’s Cup, Commonwealth Boxing and the World Boxing Championships, Kenya have recently been turned into a punching bag in the ring.
The Hit Squad has suffered a torrid streak in seven consecutive editions of the Commonwealth Games, the most recent being the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England, where all the country’s boxers were knocked out in the preliminary rounds.
Local boxing enthusiasts reminisce about the good old days when Hit Squad asserted unrivaled authority in major competitions such as King’s Cup, Africa Boxing Championships, Commonwealth Boxing, African Games and World Boxing Championships.
One of the legendary boxers who inspired Kenya’s tremendous performance on the international stage was the late Philip Waruinge, who stood out at the Olympics, the African Games and the Commonwealth Games over five decades ago.
Waruinge earned global acclamation after punching viciously for gold at the 1966 Commonwealth Games in Kingston, Jamaica.
He pulverised his opponents on his way to the podium during the African Championships in Cairo in 1964 and the inaugural All Africa Games in Congo Brazzaville in 1965, where he bagged gold in the 57kg featherweight category on both occasions.
Kenyan boxers kept the flag flapping in subsequent tournaments between 1966 and 1994. The rain started beating the country at the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and the situation has worsened since then.
Kenya earned their last gold medals from heavyweight Ahmed Omar Kasongo and lightfly Abdulrahman Ramadhan at the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Victoria, Canada.
Are we about to witness a reprieve after years of agony?
Africa championship light-middleweight bronze medallist Boniface Mugunde has promised to help bring an end to Hit Squad’s perennial heartbreak.
Mugunde, 29, was appointed the new captain of the national boxing team on Tuesday. He takes over the reins from veteran pugilist Nick Okoth, who announced his retirement late last year to take up a coaching role with the junior national team.
Mugunde has vowed to spearhead the Kenyan medal charge by ripping his opponents apart in Tanzania.
The third edition of the premier regional showpiece will be staged at the William Mkapa Indoor Stadium.
“I have been named the national team captain by God’s grace and I’m grateful to the federation for honouring me with this exceptional privilege,” Mugunde said.
“I’d like to thank our coaches for the good job they are doing for us and I promise to work closely with them to improve our performance in subsequent competitions.”
Mugunde said he will use the Tanzanian trip to sharpen his talons for the World Championships in Kazakhstan.
“I give God praise for giving me the chance to join the team. It is never easy. We are well-prepared for the upcoming IBA World Boxing Championships in Kazakhstan and the Africa Zone 3 competition. I believe everyone is anticipating the World Championships, my main focus,” Mugunde said.
However, he acknowledges his quest to bring home the title will not be a walk in the park.
“Nothing worthwhile comes easily. If one wants to succeed, he or she must give their all. I won a bronze medal at the previous competition in Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and I’m hoping for gold this time.”
Mugunde is among the star-studded list of 21 boxers who were unveiled on Monday by head coach Benjamin Musa.
Five of the 21 boxers chosen — Abednego Kyalo (minimum weight), Steve Olang (welterweight), Robert Okaka (light heavyweight), Peter Abuti (heavyweight) and Emily Juma (flyweight) —will make their national team debuts.
David Karanja (flyweight), Shaffi Bakari (bantamweight), Samuel Njau (featherweight), and Elizabeth Andiego are the four reigning champions who have made the team (light heavyweight).
In the previous championship, held in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Hit Squad finished second behind the hosts with six gold, five silver, and seven bronze medals. While unveiling the traveling contingent, Musa promised a masterstroke performance in Dar.
“We are grateful that we were able to get together once more for the Africa Zone 3 Boxing Championships,” Musa said. “The boxers in our camp have been practicing diligently. As soon as we got back from the IBA World Women’s Boxing Championships in New Delhi, India, we started our preparations.”
Musa said the Tanzanian tournament will help fine-tune the players, especially the men’s category ahead of the IBA World Boxing Championships in Kazakhstan.
“We will be using the upcoming competition to prepare for the IBA World Boxing Championships scheduled to begin on May 1. We will be represented in all the divisions of the men’s competition,” said Musa.
He also observed that they are sending some of the country’s well-known after finding themselves time-tied on the selection process.
“We decided to give priority to the female boxers who represented us in India for them to continue gaining the necessary experience ahead of future international competitions. If they succeed in winning their matches in Tanzania, hopefully, they will be able to regain their confidence.”
Musa confirmed that they will leave for the games on April 16 and reiterated their desire to repeat Kenya’s achievement from the previous year, where they won 18 medals.
“The camp is in a positive mood, and the boxers have very high levels of morale. By the time we leave for the competition, we should have sufficiently honed our act. We are relieved that there aren’t any current injury concerns,” said Musa.
He warned the team to punch above their weight in preparation for possible medal success while acknowledging that they might face difficult competition.
“We will exert every effort to win as many medals as we can while keeping in mind that we finished second in the competition the previous year. We want to beat our previous six gold medal haul and, if possible, win the competition. However, we are aware of the fierce competition that awaits.”
Meanwhile, the decorated Okoth has tipped the country to sparkle in Dar. Okoth took part in the past two editions of the annual regional showpiece before calling time on his career in October last year. He has since joined the technical bench comprising Musa, Dave Munuhe and Patrick Waweru.
“The current team has immense talent. I’m not worried about having left the team since I’ve already spotted some gifted boxers who can comfortably step into my shoes,” Okoth said.
“With the amazing skills they already possess, they only need a bit of polishing by the coaching department to register impressive outcomes.”
The seasoned pugilist expressed confidence in the potential of the new Hit Squad captain to steer the team to new heights.
“BFK made the right choice on Mugunde. He is someone I’ve known for a long time and I trust his ability to lead the team successfully. He is very disciplined, humble and puts a lot of hours into training. He will be a great inspiration to the rest of the squad.”
Okoth has pledged to introduce Mugunde to the intricate ropes of leadership.
“I’m very much willing to offer him the guidance he will need to succeed in his new role. We can only achieve success by putting our heads together,” said Okoth.
He asked Mugunde to have a firm resolve, warning him of the challenges that come with the role.
“He needs to be exemplary in time management and practice good communication skills. He will require this quality to solve several issues in the camp.”