After watching his charges successfully reassert Botswana’s supremacy in Southern Africa’s Zone 4 championships held in Gaborone in the past week, the head coach of the Botswana National Boxing team is optimistic that his charges can perform better at the upcoming Africa Boxing Championships, which are due to be held in Cameroon next month.
Coach Khumiso Ikgopoleng says the local lads have the capability to win against any of their African opponents.
Ikgopoleng, who was on his first official tournament as the head coach of the national boxing team, watched his charges win 8 medals out of a possible 9 during the championships to wrench away Namibia’s two year domination of Southern African boxing.
During the championships, Botswana, who fielded nine boxers for the Zone 4 championships, won four gold medals, two silvers and two bronze medals. Only one boxer, Zibani Chikanda, who was one of the three boxers making their debut for the national team, failed to win a medal.
The result means Botswana will take an eight man team for the Africa Championships, out of which only six boxers, who made it to the finals of the Zone 4 championships, have already qualified for the All Africa Games due to be held in Mozambique this coming September.
Asked what brought him the good results in his four-month stint at the helm, Ikgopoleng said they have been concentrating on improving the tactical awareness of local boxers to complement their skill and potential. “We have been trying to help our boxers deal with different situations. We have been helping them on how to cope and fight against boxers who fight from different fighting stances to theirs,” the national boxing team mentor said.
He says to ensure the maximum performance of athletes, they are also trying not to emphasize solely on their physical conditioning but also on their mental and psychological preparedness.
“We have also started looking at videos of boxers we are to meet and seeing their strengths and weaknesses to make sure the boxers are prepared for every bout. This ensures that our boxers know what to expect from each boxer they are to face,” Ikgopoleng added.
Going into the Africa Boxing Championships, Ikgopoleng says the intentions will be to get the two boxers who won bronze medals to win and qualify for the All Africa Games to ensure that Botswana takes eight boxers for Africa’s sporting showpiece. Overall, Ikgopoleng says while they intend to win medals at the Africa championships, their primary aim will be to gauge themselves ahead of the All Africa Games as well as the Olympic qualifiers that will come early next year. With Botswana aiming to win as many medals during the All Africa Games and much hope lying on boxing and athletics, which are the country’s best performing codes, the boxing national says they are ready for the pressures that come with the expectations. Meanwhile, Ikgopoleng says there is no boxer who is guaranteed a place in the national team set up. He says they are looking at all boxers and whoever performs well will be considered for the national colours.
“Every athlete has to prove that they are fit for the national team, even those in the national set up are not guaranteed places,” Ikgopoleng says. He cited the recent calling of many boxers for the national team boxing camp as an example, saying the intention is to have replacements ready in cases where they have to drop some boxers from the national team set up.