Just last year, one of Botswana’s experienced boxers, Khumiso Ikgopoleng, did not have a chance to go for the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, Australia. By then he was just fresh from Cuba where he underwent intensive training and studying at the same time. Instead, upcoming Thato Batshegi was selected ahead of him. Botswana Amateur Boxing Association (BABA) politics was seen as the reason behind Ikgopoleng’s exclusion.
Nevertheless, Ikgopoleng put all the incidents behind and worked to qualify for the Commonwealth Games. This time around, another tragedy has struck him. He has been denied a chance to fight at the Africa championships that will be held in Madagascar next week. Ikgopoleng replaced Mmoloki Nogeng in the 54 kg category; Nogeng is reported to be not fit but the sudden change of rules by the African boxing body affected him. At first it was said the tournament was an open one, which is something that automatically qualified him but latter on, it was said only those who fought at the Zone VI tournament would make it provided they won either a gold or silver medal. Since Ikgopoleng did not take part in the Zone VI games, it meant that he is out. His exclusion means that Botswana will only send a team of five boxers compared to the previous seven.
“It is frustrating. But as a sports person, these are the kind of things one should always expect. I was ready for the tournament just like the other five boxers and had already taken leave from my job. But it is part of life,” he said.
Another boxer who did not make it is Bathusi Mogajane. Mogajane’s exclusion was due to the fact that he won a bronze medal at the Zone VI games.
BABA’s public relations officer, Willough Kemoen, confirmed Ikgopoleng and Mogajane’s exclusion but expressed confidence that the available boxers would do the country proud as they did during the Zone VI games. The only worry for the team, however, is that they did not have an international friendly.
“Unfortunately change of rules at the last moment automatically excluded, Ikgopoleng and Mogajane. This then means only five boxers will make it to Madagascar. As the association, we are happy with the preparations and, hopefully, they will also win either gold or silver medals and then qualify for World Champions to be held in the United States of America,” he said.
Another boxer, Gomotsang Gaasite, was also optimistic to make it to the World Championships. Gaasite, who is in the tough 60 kg category, failed twice in African competitions. He was knocked out in the quarter finals and only managed a bronze medal. He said he is going to put everything into the fights to win at least a silver medal.
“It is not easy at African Championships and those boxers mainly from North Africa dominate African championships. But I am happy with the preparations and I will try by all means to qualify for the next stage. I hope other boxers will also not disappoint the nation,” he said.
Other boxers going to Madagascar are Thato Batshegi (57kg), Moabi Mothiba (69kg), Herbet Nkabite (64 kg) and Koolopile Gabaikanngwe (81 kg). With the exception of Nkabite, all other boxers won gold medals at the Zone VI tournament.
Local boxers surprised many at the Zone VI tournament early this year by outclassing the much feared South Africans and Namibians. South Africans found themselves trailing local boxers in almost all categories. The real battle is now expected in Madagascar where South Africa is reported to be plotting Botswana’s downfall.
The team is under the tutelage of Johannes Dithabang and Thebe Setlalekgosi. The tournament starts on May 22 and runs until the 27th. The boxers are expected home on May 29.