National Boxing Team set to tour Netherlands and Philippines
FILE: The Kenya Boxing team “Hit Squad” training at fitness centre, Nairobi  [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

The trip meant to give more exposure before the Tokyo Olympics

The National Boxing Team has lined up two more international championships in Netherlands and Philippines after a week in the Democratic Republic of Congo where they took part in Africa Zone Three Boxing Championships in Kinshasa.

The team scooped 13 medals spread as one gold, five silver and seven bronze medals in Kinshasa.

Head Coach Musa Benjamin said they have been forced to shop for two serious international competitions after International Boxing Association (AIBA) cancelled the World Olympic Qualifiers that was scheduled for Paris, France in June.

He said plans are underway to have ‘The Hit Squad’ take part in two tournaments in the Netherlands in May and the Philippines thereafter to prepare the four boxers who have qualified for the Olympics to have more exposure and confidence.

National Boxing Team set to tour Netherlands and Philippines
Captain Kenya Boxing team Nick Okoth training at AVfitness centre in Nairobi, ready to leave to DRC for Africa Zone Three Championships. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

“Boxers from North African countries are training in Europe and there is a need for us to follow suit if we are to match and beat them in continental and international championships hence the need to go for the two competitions,” Benjamin told Standard Sports upon arrival from Kinshasa.

The cancellation of the global qualifiers led AIBA to use continental rankings to nominate new qualifiers, which earned Africa Zone Three super heavyweight gold medalist Elly Ajowi and national lightweight champion Elizabeth Akinyi their tickets to Olympics.

“The changes have also given us get adequate time to put our house in order before we embark on the two international assignments,” he added.

Other boxers who had earlier qualified for the Olympics are 2015 Africa Boxing Championships lightweight gold medalist and team captain Nick Okoth and national flyweight champion Christine Ongare.

He said their plans will be communicated to National Olympic Committee -Kenya and the government in due course.

Benjamin said they had learnt great lessons during the Africa Zone Three Boxing Championships in Kinshasa, which will be a guiding factor in their preparations for the Olympics.

First and foremost, he said the presence of a nutritionist besides Strength and Conditioning technical bench and a physiotherapist was a motivating factor to the 16-team-squad in Kinshasa.

Officiating was below par and he appealed to the Africa Zone Three National federations to have their technical officials trained before they are appointed to take part in such international assignments.

“Most bouts that involved us or not had suspicious officiating and this explained that some officials lacked technical expertise,” he observed.

And Benjamin supported the move to send more boxers in the same weight categories to such tournaments stating it gives young boxers a chance to get exposure at an early age before they succeed the old guards.

Kenya sent a total of 16 boxers to the Kinshasa championships and some boxers benefitted from the new arrangement.

National Boxing Team set to tour Netherlands and Philippines
Kenya’s Women Middleweight champion Elizabeth Andiego training in Nairobi. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

They included Shaffi Bakari and David Karanja in the flyweight, Nick Okoth and Martin Oduor in the featherweight, Victor Odhiambo and Joseph Shigali in the lightweight and Edwin Okong’o and George Cosby in the middleweight.

“This is the way to go in future international assignments whether we host them or are held elsewhere,” said Benjamin who also coached Tanzania National Boxing Team in the last Commonwealth Games.

Meanwhile, the team takes a break before resuming for individual training next week.

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