Kenyan pugilist gives up ABU title defence for shot at Olympics

Wednesday, January 15th, 2020 00:00 |
Kenya’s Rayon Okwiri (right) takes on Congolese Augustine Matata during the Nairobi Fight Night last month. Photo/PD/DAVID NDOLO

Africa Boxing Union (ABU) middleweight champion Rayton Okwiri is making sacrifices just to participate at the Tokyo Olympics Games. 

That includes withdrawing from defending his ABU title to be able to feature at the Games slated for July 24 to August 9 in the Japanese city. 

The 33-year-old is faced with a dilemma after being named in the national team that is preparing for the Africa Olympic qualifiers to be staged in Dakar, Senegal from February 20-29.

World Boxing Commission (WBC) is not happy about Okwiri’s decision to participate in the Olympics qualifiers since he is already a professional boxer and has threatened to break ties with him. 

The pugilist has, however, denied any wrongdoing, saying he is an open boxer who is free to take part in the Olympics qualifiers. 

“I saw WBC’s response to my move but under the new AIBA rules, any boxer can participate in the Olympics. It is every boxer’s dream or indeed any athlete to represent his country in such an event.

I want to go and participate because I know I can add value to the team if I am selected. Just to clarify, I am still a professional boxer,” the boxer, who is under new management told People Sport yesterday. 

Okwiri wants to relinquish his African belt and focus on a world and intercontinental title so that others can also have a chance. 

“I have two African titles so I need to move up. Hopefully, after the Olympics, I will pursue other high-valued belts and this is a discussion we are having constantly with my promoter,” he added.

Okwiri, who is attached to Kenya Prisons, last represented Kenya in the 2016 Rio Olympics in Brazil, reaching the quarter-finals after clinching gold in the African qualifiers in Yaoundé, Cameroon early that year. 

He had taken issue with the officiating at the Rio event but believes things will be different this time around. “AIBA has a new team and we expect some of these technical issues to be sorted.

I had my complaints like other people in Brazil and it is in public domain. I believe this time round the judges and referees will be fair,” said Okwiri. 

Okwiri’s participation has received backing from Boxing Federation of Kenya Secretary General John Waweru who says AIBA allows any professional to take part in the Olympics irrespective of his professional status at the ranks of WBC, World Boxing Federation (WBF) and International Boxing Federation (IBF).

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