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Okwiri’s Olympic dream shattered in Dakar

Kenya’s Rayton Okwiri steps into the ring during the African Tokyo 2020 Olympic qualifiers in Dakar, Senegal. PHOTO/NOCK/Twitter

NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 23 – Rayton Okwiri’s hopes of returning to the Olympic Games were shattered on Sunday evening after bowing out to Ugandan David Ssemujji on a split decision in the middleweight division at the Tokyo 2020 qualifiers in Dakar, Senegal.

Okwiri, a Kenyan Olympian in Rio 2016 had briefly given up his professional career to have another shot at medaling at the Olympics, but all those dreams were brought tumbling down like a pack of cards by the Ugandan Africa Games silver medalist.

“I was really fit enough for this fight. I heard the guy is from pro and has come back. So I did what I had to do and won. I am called The Animal and I don’t mind so whoever comes my way I just smash him down. This fight shows you where I am going because after the Olympics I want to turn pro,” the Ugandan said after the bout.

The meeting between the two East Africans was billed to be the bout of the tournament, with Ssemuji exempted from the preliminary round and handed a bye while Okwiri came in with such healthy pedigree.

In the second, just as it seemed Okwiri was getting on top, Ssemujji fired back with a big uppercut. But after two rounds, it was the Kenyan who was in front of the scorecards – three judges gave him the first round while four the second.

However, the Ugandan big hitter responded in the final round in a bid to turn the bout into his side. Okwiri tried to respond, launching a relentless body assault in the final minute.

However, the judges went on to give Ssemuji the points, the number one seed going through to the next round on a split decision.

Kenya’s main hopes will now rest on skipper Nick Okoth who progressed to the quarter finals of the featherweight category after out-punching Wilson Semedo of Cape Verde earlier on Sunday.

On Monday, Humphrey Ochieng will step on the canvas in the light-heavyweight category against Moroccan Mohamed Assghir while Africa Games bronze medallist Boniface Mogunde will trade punches with Algerian Chemseddine Kramou in the preliminary round of the welterweight division.

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In the women’s side, Elizabeth Akinyi will battle it out with Faruza Osuman of Ghana in the welterweight quarterfinals.

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