Knockout blow: Boxing hit hard by Covid-19
Barry Silah @obel_barry
The boxing scene in Kenya has been quiet for the past nine months following the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Training sessions were not permitted for months before boxing authorities lobbied the Ministry of Sports for a relaxation of the directives.
National Amateur Boxing League was terminated after only two rounds in February and only two pugilists participated in invitational fights in Ghana and Tanzania.
As a consequence, most boxers turned to home training even as many were rendered jobless as the government insisted the ban was all about protecting the athletes.
However, through a stimulus package programme from the State, a few lucky boxers had it slightly better.
The boxers seeking a slot in the Tokyo Olympics had to go back to the gym under trainers Benjamin Musa, John Waweru and David Munuhe.
The coaches had quite some work to do to keep the six boxers in shape for Olympics qualification as only Nick Okoth and Christine Ongare had made the cut last year.
As such, the likes of Shaffi Bakari and Elizabeth Andiego will go through the trickier path of repechage in France in April and have been under close monitoring from the trainers.
In the professional corner, veteran boxers Morris Okola and Fatuma Zarika got invites to money events.
Zarika who is the former female World Boxing Council Super bantamweight champion was last month in Tanzania for the vacant World Boxing Federation title where she beat Zimbabwean Patience Mastara to clinch the crown in Dar es Salaam.
This was her first fight after her controversial loss in a return bout against Mexican Yamileth Mercado in Mexico in November 2019.
Elsewhere, reigning national heavyweight champion Morris Okola was last week a fourth round loser against Ghanaian Richard Harrison Lartey, whom he also faced in 2018, in a WBO-Africa championship.
Off the ring, at least 50 coaches underwent a one week training facilitated by the Boxing Federation of Kenya conducted by Finnish and English trainers.
The training organized by BFK President Jamal Ombok saw former boxers, including Nick Abaka of Kenya Defence Forces, receive Star 1 licenses.