NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 24 – National boxing team skipper Nick ‘Commander’ Okoth weathered two point deductions and a loose mouth-guard to progress to the quarter finals of the African Olympic Qualifiers in the featherweight division in Dakar, Senegal on Monday.
Okoth outsmarted Egyptian Mostafa Mohamed Komsan on a split decision to progress to the last eight and keep his hopes of a second successive Olympics alive.
“It wouldn’t have been a slit decision were it not for my mouth-guard that kept coming off. I have the experienced, trained very well with coach Benjamin Musa and he kept telling me what I need to do. You saw how hard I pushed hard at the end, some solid punches,” Okoth told the Olympic Channel after clinching victory.
He added; “It was harder than the start. The coaches talked to me and told me that I need to finish this one strong.”
Despite the difficulties he faced trying to adjust his guard all the time, Okoth battered the Egyptian against the ropes in the final round to make it through to the last eight.
He is one of the biggest hopes Kenya has in having a boxer at the Olympics especially after African champion Rayton Okwiri was beaten on Sunday.
-Akinyi through to semis
Meanwhile, Elizabeth Akinyi progressed to the semi-finals of the welterweight division after beating Ghana’s Faruza Osuman in the quarters.
Akinyi made her advantages tell with an excellent last two rounds to wear down Osuman who had dominated the opening round of their encounter.
“For me this is a continuation of a journey that will not end here but in Tokyo. That’s where I want to end the journey. I had put pressure on myself that I had to make up for the team after a tough day out in the rings for our boxers. After my road work this morning I felt good, and it was clear with how I controlled the fight from start to end,” she said after booking her slot in the finals.
While the two enjoyed success, it wasn’t all glory for the Kenyans in Dakar.
Elizabeth Andiego who was seeking a second consecutive appearance at the Olympics disappointingly lost her bout against Mozambique’s Rady Gramane on a very tight split decision in the quarters of the middleweight division.
Andiego seemed to get the better of the first two rounds, but Gramane took the third and it proved enough to get the nod from the judges.
-Maina knocked out
Earlier on, Humphrey Ochieng’s bid was also halted by Mohamed Assaghir of Morocco, who beat him and held on for a 4-1 split decision in the light heavyweight category.
But, the biggest shock of the day came from African Games bronze medalist Boniface Maina who stepped on the canvas for barely a minute before being knocked out by Albert Mengue Ayissi of Cameroon.
Maina was the third best Kenyan in the team of eight men in Dakar, but he couldn’t withstand the heavy punches of the Cameroonian. He first traded a sharp right jab onto the jaw to leave the Kenyan dazed.
After being assessed by the referee and passed fit to continue after just 49 seconds, the Cameroonian rained a combination of left-right blows on the Kenyan to leave him in sixes and sevens, forcing the referee to call off the fight.