Thursday, May 23, 2024

Botswana boxers go south to warm up for Olympic qualifiers

Botswana Boxing Association (BoBA) will use its participation at the Inaugural Mandela African Boxing Cup to prepare local boxers for the last qualifiers of the Paris 2024 Olympics.

The cup tournament is set to take place at the International Convention Centre in Durban, South Africa from 15-21 April 2024.

Qualifying for the Olympic games has so far proven an elusive endeavour for local boxers. This is largely due to a combination of factors, chief among them, lack of finances, poor preparations as well as sub-par performance by athletes.  

Due to lack of adequate preparations, local boxers failed to punch their tickets to Paris during the Africa qualifiers in Senegal last year. This was then followed by a failure to compete at the first world qualification tournament in Busto Arsizio, Italy in February due to unavailability of funds.

Despite these setbacks, BoBA is yet to throw in the towel and is hopeful of being part of the Paris 2024 Olympics. Any hope the association has to qualify now lies with the second and last world qualification tournament which will be hosted in Bangkok, Thailand from 23rd of May to the 3rd of June 2024.

BoBA Secretary General Taolo Tlouetsile says the Mandela African boxing cup has come at the right time to help boost their athletes’ performance.  “Last year when the cup came up, we were not eager to send a team due to financial constraints. As luck would have it, it was postponed to this year. We have now decided to send a team to participate in this cup as preparation for the second world qualification tournament as this is our last chance to qualify for the Olympics,” Tlouetsile explains.

According to the BoBA Secretary General, due to the severity of their financial constraints, local boxers’ participation in preparatory tournaments were limited. This is however easing up as both the Botswana National Sporting Commission (BNSC) and Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC) are now ready to assist. 

It is through this support that the association can now participate in both the Inaugural Mandela African boxing cup. BoBA will send a team of nine (9) athletes and three (3) officials to the tournament.

The team, which is led by coaches Thebe Setlalekgosi, Gibson Rauwe and Pearl Mooketsi consists of five (5) male boxers and four (4) female boxers. The male team is made of Kobamelo Molatlhegi (48kg), Mmoloki Sekwaipe (57kg), Kabo Seitshiro (63.5kg), Rajab O. Mahomed (51kg) and George Molwantwa (54kg). Phekie Bele (54kg), Keobakeng Phillip (57kg), Kutlwano Sekhutlo (63kg) and Keamogetse Kenosi (60kg) make the ladies’ team. 

At least 369 boxers from 41 African countries are expected to compete at the inaugural boxing cup. They will compete in thirteen (13) elite International Boxing Association (IBA) men’s categories and twelve (12) elite IBA women’s categories. 

“After the cup, we will look at the team’s performance and analyse it. Once that is done, we will select a team from that list which will participate in the second world qualification tournament based on their performance.” 

“We might send a team of four after engagement with both BNSC and BNOC regarding funding. But we are also aware that chances are that only two boxers ‘male and female’ might be selected,” Tlouetsile explains. 

Should Botswana fail to qualify a boxer for the Olympics, it would mark a new trend in the country’s boxing Olympic history. Since first taking part in boxing at the Olympics in 1988, Botswana has only failed to qualify once.

That came in 2016 when BoBA failed to qualify a single athlete for the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Botswana’s hopes for qualification lies in the tried and tested duo of Keamogetse Kenosi and Rajab Mahomed. The two athletes were the last boxers to make Botswana’s Olympics team, having done so at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. 

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