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Okwiri ready for Pacquiao challenge in Olympics

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African Welterweight champion Rayton Okwiri.PHOTO/Mike Kariuki

African Welterweight champion Rayton Okwiri.PHOTO/Mike Kariuki

NAIROBI, April 19 – African welterweight title holder Rayton Okwiri says he does not fear meeting Filipino world champion Manny Pacquiao in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games where professional boxers are eligible to compete in men’s boxing for the first time.

Kenya’s Okwiri, who competes in the welterweight-69kg, booked a place in the Summer Games after clinching gold in the African qualifiers held in February to become the only boxer to represent the country in Rio.

On the other hand, superstar Pacquiao was offered a wildcard ticket by International Boxing Association (AIBA) President Dr Ching Kuo after declaring interest to represent Philippine in the prestigious quadrennial sports event that gets underway August 6.

“I can easily beat Pacquiao with a good game plan because he is someone who runs around the ring. The best way to beat him is to stay away from him and move as Floyd Mayweather did.

He is short and strong but I have the advantage since I am taller. Of course there will be tension when I meet him but that will not affect me,” Okwiri, the Kenya Prisons boxer told Capital Sport.

Other big names that have showed interest to compete in the Olympics include 1996 Super heavyweight gold medallist Wladimir Klitschko and British professional boxer Amir Khan.

Okwiri, who is fourth in the AIBA rankings, is confident he will have a good outing and go all the way to become the second Kenyan to clinch gold after Robert Wangila Napunyi made history as the first African fighter to claim the honour at the Seoul 1988 Games in South Korea.

“All the five boxers I will be meeting in the Olympics, I have beaten before and there is nothing hard so long as I get sponsors, good maintenance and I know I will perform well because those who I will meet there have two hands like me,” the 30-year-old Mombasa boxer based warned.

However, to achieve the goal, Okwiri needs two months intensified training to improve on his speed, technique and power and has called on sponsors to support him attend training camp in the United States.

“The journey has now begun and I would want to be taken outside the country to get good sparring partners because in the Kenyan team I don’t have a strong sparring partner. They usually fear me because I hit hard so they don’t give me the competition I want,” Okwiri who started boxing in 2003 said.

“I urge the Federation or Government to pay for my air ticket and accommodation since I have been invited to train in Florida, USA alongside my two trainers. The coaching is catered for but I need to pay the rest.”

– To quit international –

African Welter weight champion Rayton Okwiri.PHOTO/Mike Kariuki

African Welter weight champion Rayton Okwiri.PHOTO/Mike Kariuki

Having represented Kenya for a decade, Okwiri revealed he will retire from international competition after the Rio Olympics to concentrate on his professional boxing career.

In his stint with the national team so far, the experienced hard hitting boxer is unbeaten in East and Central Africa for the last seven years, having competed in World Championship, Commonwealth Games, All African Games and African Championships.

Okwiri disclosed that he nearly quit international after the 2015 All Africa Games where he finished fifth, citing poor officiating.

“During the 2015 Congo All Africa Games, I started well by beating an Egyptian in the first match but in the quarters the officials were biased despite having won against a Nigerian, that discouraged me and I said I will stop representing my country,” Okwiri, who comes from a boxing family affirmed.

“But I was encouraged by my coach and went back to training to prepare for Olympic qualifiers. I had my own three weeks camp at home, training thrice a day and that really helped me win gold in Cameroon. My journey has been good though I was depressed but God has rewarded me with the gold medal. After the Olympics, I will quit international boxing to concentrate in professional since there is a lot at stake.”

Okwiri is scheduled to fight a Russian in AIBA’s tournament in the US, then face either a Hungarian or Cuban in the 10 rounds before featuring in three rounds bout recommended for Olympics as part of his preparations.

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