The last time Botswana participated at the World Boxing Champions was ten years ago, and the performance was dismal. All the five boxers came home empty handed after being humiliated by their counterparts from around the world. This time around, Botswana will be sending two boxers and how they will perform against the World’s best remains a mammoth task. The technical officer of the Botswana Amateur Boxing Association, Healer Modiradilo, was one of the five boxers that represented Botswana in 1997 and recalls the events well. He cautions the duo of Khumiso Ikgopoleng and Thato Batshegi for the tournament that starts on 17th of October to the first week of December in Chicago, USA.
“I have been to several tournaments around the world, but the World Championships are really tough. At the championships you get to meet the world’s best boxers from countries like Cuba and Russia. Just imagine our crop in 1997 was one of the best in the boxing history of Botswana but we did not progress beyond the preliminary stages. Ikgopoleng and Batshegi must, however, not press panic buttons; they must take things easy and, who knows, they might cause a major havoc,” he said.
In 1997, Modiradili was with the Setlalekgosi twins, Thebe and Thapelo, Eliot Mmila and Biki Malaolo.
Modiradilo also stressed that what is going to make the tournament even more difficult is the fact that it will be used as an Olympic qualifier. He said all boxers who reach the quarter finals and beyond would automatically qualify for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Modiradilo, however, added that all is not lost for the local boxers who have not made it for the tournament because there will be about three continental competitions for African boxers. On why Botswana has not been competing in the tournament and is sending only two boxers compared to five in 1997, Modiradilo decried limited funds. He told Sunday Standard that they wanted to send as many boxers as possible but funds are their main problem.
“We have not been competing at the World Championships mainly because of limited funds. Even this year things are difficult for us, but we will only manage to send two. Initially the plan was to send three boxers but one of the boxers including, Herbet Nkabite, will be participating at the World Military games. We felt that Nkabite should go because military games are of the same standard as the World Championships and we wish him all the best,” he said.
In regard to the criteria used to select the two boxers, Modiradilo stressed that they considered the performance of the All Africa games where Khumiso brought a bronze medal. For Batshegi, who came back empty handed, Modiradilo said they considered him because he performed better. Modiradilo said the technical report showed that Batshegi is a future star and hence his selection. Modiradilo also said they selected Batshegi because he is under the sponsorship of the Botswana National Sports Council, adding that they will not be spending too much on him compared to the other boxers.