As the 2020 Tokyo Olympics draws nearer, National Boxing Team coaches are worried of injuries that could be inflicted on players by sparring partners in residential training as they prepare for the games set for Japan from July 23 to August 8.
The sparring partners are some of the most experienced reigning international boxers in the current market approved by National Technical Commission (NTC) to assist the four boxers who have qualified for the Olympics undergo extensive sparring process.
The aim is to expose them (players) to intense Strength and Conditioning measures to match the required Olympic standards against experienced international boxers.
National Deputy coach David Munuhe said they have done so for the sparring bouts to be similar to actual fights during international championships for boxers to realise what is expected of them in Japan.
“We have made sparring bouts to be almost similar to the actual fights. These are strategies we have made for players to know and realise what is expected of them in Olympics in order to reach the medal brackat and possibly win the top medals,” Munuhe told Standard Sports.
The sparring partners are reigning international boxers who failed to qualify for the games but have been appointed by National Technical Commission (NTC) with approval of National Olympic Committee- Kenya (NOC-Kenya).
They (sparring partners) are flyweights (49-52kgs) Shaffi Hassan Bakari and David Karanja, welterweights(64kgs) Martin Oduor and Victor Odhiambo, middleweights (75kgs) Elizabeth Andiego and Boniface Mogunde and heavyweights (91kgs) Joshua Wasike and Hezron Maganga.
“It is the reason we pray that none of the four boxers who qualified for Olympics gets injured in sparring while in residential training where the ambience in camp is similar to the one we had in Russia during the Konstantin Korotkov Memorial International Boxing Championships,” he added.
Only four boxers have qualified for the Olympics, which two did during Africa Olympic Qualifiers (AOQ) in Dakar, Senegal in February last year and the other two earned their slots through ratings by International Boxing Association (AIBA) after cancellation of WOQ that were to be hosted in Paris, France this month(June 2021) due to the threat posed by Coronavirus pandemic.
The quartet are 2015 Africa Boxing Championships lightweight gold medalist Nick Okoth, Africa Zone Three super heavyweight gold medalist Elly Ajowi, Commonwealth Games flyweight bronze medalist Christine Ongare and national welterweight champion Elizabeth Akinyi.
Okoth is sparring with Oduor(Martin) and Odhiambo(Victor), Ajowi with Maganga(Hezron) and Wasike(Joshua), Ongare with Bakari(Shaffi) and Karanja (David) while Akinyi is being assisted by Andiego(Elizaberh) and Mogunde (Boniface).
“Prayers is what will save us at the moment as we are not ready to lose any of them (the four players) to injury as they are irreplaceable and there is no time for the healing process,” said the tactician who is also trains league champions Kenya Police.
However, Munuhe will be forced to advise the sparring partners not to be too hard on the four players to avoid injuries, a factor he says will make the pugilists to be complacent in their training sessions.
He said they have been forced to spur male against female boxers as a Strength and Conditioning measure in favour of the latter.
” We made a decision to spur male boxers against their female counterparts to give them endurance and strength against abrasive opponents. It is a measure of Strength and Conditioning to give female boxers the required depth in matches,” the deputy coach said.
They have been training at AV Fitness Centre Gymnasium in Lavington, Nairobi from the time they arrived from Russia, three weeks back.
Munuhe confirmed that they have already started their residential training camp next to their training venue and would only shift to Moi International Sports Centre in Kasarani where all teams are due to lodge when it is absolutely necessary.
“Our residential training has officially started here( AV Fitness Centre) with permission from NOC-Kenya and we’ll only shift to MISC when it’ll be absolutely necessary. Conditions and ambience here is superb and the team is happy,” he said.
The team is training under a panel of six coaches led by Head Coach Musa Benjamin, Munuhe and assistant coaches John Waweru, Ibrahim ‘Surf’ Bilali, Julius Theuri and Charles Mukula.