Kenya finished second behind Morocco in Africa with two bronze medals as the curtains came down on the Konstatin Korotkov International Boxing Championships in the city of Khabarovsk, Russia on Saturday.
The two medals were won by captain and 2015 Africa Boxing Championships lightweight gold medalist Nick ‘Commander’ Okoth and two-time Olympian and Africa Zone Three super heavyweight gold medalist Elly Ajowi.
Okoth dropped in the semi finals of the featherweight (57kg) when he lost the bout on a unanimous decision against Ovik Oganisyan of Russia while Ajowi was beaten by Madiyar Saidrahmov of UzbekistanUzbekistan on a similar decision.
Commonwealth Games flyweight bronze medallist Christine Ongare finished fifth alongside national welterweight champion Elizabeth Akinyi after all of them lost in the first rounds in their respective weight categories.
Immediately after the match, Okoth admitted having lost to a better boxer after he slacked in the last two rounds after a better start in the first round but was contented with the bronze medal.
“I started the match well in the first round but relaxed in the last two rounds for my opponent to turn tables on me. However, I’m happy with the achievement. A bronze medal is better than nothing,” he told The Standard Sports.
Head Coach Musa Benjamin said the tournament had assisted them to know the strengths and weaknesses of each boxer for proper review ahead of the future international championships.
“The tournament is of great importance to us as it has assisted the technical bench on areas we need to address before we head to Japan for 2020 Tokyo Olympics,” Benjamin said.
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His (Benjamin’s) deputy, David Munuhe said boxers did their best in the tournament but was quick to point out that they were fighting better opponents exposed to quality facilities compared to them.
He added that it could have been a grave mistake had they missed the tournament.
“Such competitions are of great help to us especially at such a time when we are preparing for serious international championships,” Munuhe pointed out.
National Olympic Committee – Kenya, (NOCK) treasurer Anthony Kariuki who was the leader of the delegation said it was very crucial to involve the team in another international friendly competition before they head to Japan.
“Kenyans played against young refined boxers they could face in Tokyo and since it was an important tournament that had exposed them, it’ll be prudent if we could involve them in another event of such magnitude before heading to Japan,” Kariuki stated.
His statement coincided with Boxing Federation of Kenya’s earlier plans of sending the same team to the Philippines ahead of the Olympics.
Last week, BFK’s Competitions’ Secretary John Waweru confirmed they had written to the Kenyan Government on their intention to travel to the Philippines upon their return from Russia.
Team manager Linus Ouma said it was important to start the recruitment and training of young boxers in the grassroots at tender ages and expose them at the international level before climbing up the ranks to the senior teams.
“This is the way forward to measure with the standards seen in Russia. That’s the way to go if we are to regain our previous status of a global boxing powerhouse,” he said.
During the nine-day tournament, Kenya’s top referee cum judge Nelson Otieno was the only technical official from Africa who was appointed to officiate in it despite the competition having also attracted Morocco and Algeria.
The team arrives in the country on Monday.
i) Team Captain Nick Okoth won a bronze medal in the featherweight division (57kg).
ii) Olympian Elly Ajowi won a bronze medal in the super heavyweight (over 91kg).
ii) Flyweight(48kg) Christine Ongare and welterweight (69kg) Elizabeth Akinyi finished fifth in their respective weight categories.