As the World Boxing Championships boxes-of on Tuesday, who in the National Boxing Team will equal the feat of the 1978 World Boxing Championships flyweight gold medalist Steve Muchoki?
That’s a million-dollar question disturbing thousands of boxing fans across the country who posed in a section of the social media asking “who’ll fit the shoes of former world champion Steve Muchoki?”.
Muchoki was the first Kenyan boxer to have won a gold medal in the 1978 World Boxing Championships in Belgrade, Yugoslavia (now Serbia), a feat no Kenyan boxer has ever come close to at the global championships.
Prior to that, Muchoki had won a silver medal at the 1976 global championships before he joined the paid ranks in 1981.
Kenya has sent a full team of 13 boxers and head coach Musa Benjamin is well aware that it is the same city that hosted Muchoki when he became the first Kenyan to win a gold medal at the showpiece to shock the world and the Western powers who never expected it.
The team of 13 boxers and seven officials jetted out of Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on Thursday night.
Team captain Nick ‘Commander’ Okoth, Africa Zone Three Boxing Championships super heavyweight champion Elly Ajowi, bantamweight Shaffi Bakari and All Africa Games silver medallist Boniface Mogunde are some of the boxers tipped to reach the medal bracket.
With the introduction of cash awards by the International Boxing Association (AIBA), Okoth was confident they would register desired results.
“We are determined to give our best with the introduction of cash prizes and each one is determined to reach the medal bracket,” Okoth told Standard Sports before they took a flight to Belgrade.
He said the move had motivated them to an extent each boxer feels they are obligated and capable to make it to the medal bracket.
Africa Zone Three super heavyweight champion Elly Ajowi said the medal bracket is within their reach from their experience at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and a host of other international championships before then.
“Having featured in Olympics and a host of other international championships before then where we met world top boxers, it is my belief we are capable to win these cash prizes,” said Ajowi.
Mogunde said reaching the medal bracket is the ultimate ambition of every boxer.
“It is our ambition to reach the medal bracket and come back home with cash awards,” Mogunde said.
Head coach Musa Benjamin confirmed having an experienced squad of young and old guards who have been capped in different international championships and the global championships is an added advantage to them.
“We are taking the tournament seriously as it’ll give players exposure having gone through tough times during the Coronavirus period,” said Benjamin who also coached Tanzania National Boxing Team for the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
Benjamin confirmed morale was high and all of them(players) were raring to go.
“When a player thinks of financial rewards awarded by AIBA to medal winners, it makes them crazy and all of them are determined to reach the medal bracket,” he said.
Gold medallists at the global championships in Serbia will take home 100,000 US dollars (KSh 11million), silver medallists 50,000 USD (KSh 5.5 million) and bronze medallists 25,000 USD (KSh.2.7million).
He predicted that at least four of his boxers could reach the medal bracket.
Other coaches in the team are David Munuhe, John Waweru, Charles Ayoma and Chris Onyango.
The team manager is Steve Oduori, Sospeter Kimuthia, the physiotherapist and Sam Ogeto, the team doctor.
THE PLAYING UNIT.
Minimumweight(48kg) Maurice Maina, flyweight(51kg) David Karanja, bantamweight(54kg) Shaffi Bakari, featherweight(57kg) Martin Oduor, lightweight(60kg) Nick Okoth, light welterweight(63.5kg) Victor Odhiambo, welterweight(67kg) Joseph Shigali, light middleweight(71kg) Boniface Mogunde, middleweight(75kg) Edwin Okong’o, light heavyweight(81kg) George Cosby, cruiserweight(86kg) Hezron Maganga, heavyweight(92kg) Joshua Wasike and super heavyweight(over 92kg) Elly Ajowi.