Local flyweight pugilist, Oteng Oteng’s star continued to shine as he became Botswana’s only boxer to qualify for the London 2012 summer Olympics.
In otherwise gloomy qualifiers that saw the country’s other Olympic hopefuls crumble, Oteng was Botswana’s sole torch bearer as he won all his fights to get into the medal category, thus qualifying for the World’s biggest sporting showpiece.
In his first fight, Oteng outclassed Franck Mombey of Gabon, convincingly beating him 16 ÔÇô 6. The reigning Botswana Sportsman of the Year then went on to beat Hesham Yehia Abdelaal of Egypt, beating him 11 ÔÇô 4 to advance to the medal stage of the tournament and Olympic qualification.
Botswana had sent five boxers to the qualifiers, the last for boxing before the London 2012 Olympics.
With the exception of Oteng, the country’s pugilists started the qualifiers on a bad footing, losing their preliminary fights. While local boxers have always struggled against their North African counterparts, the casting of the lots did the country no favours as it pitted most of local boxers against the North Africans.
In Botswana’s first match, team captain Mmoloki Nogeng lost to Algeria’s Abdelkader Chadi by an unassailable margin of 21 ÔÇô 5. The Algerian dominated all the rounds in the bout, beating Nogeng 7 ÔÇô 1, 6 ÔÇô 2 and 8 ÔÇô 2 in all the three rounds, respectively.
Next on the losing line was Bathusi Mogajane who lost 18 ÔÇô 9 to Cameroon’s Thomas Essomba. After losing a closely fought first round of the bout by 4 ÔÇô 3, Mogajane lost the plot in the second and third round where he lost 6 ÔÇô 3 and 8 ÔÇô 3, respectively.
New comer Tefo Letshikgwane was next, losing 18 ÔÇô 6 to Bilel Mhamdi of Tunisia. Letshikgwane, who was a last moment replacement for Thato Batshegi, found the going very tough against the Tunisian as he lost his bout 5 ÔÇô 3, 6 ÔÇô 2 and 7 ÔÇô 1 in all the three rounds, respectively.
The last of the local boxers to bow out in the preliminaries was Gomotsang Gaasite, who lost to Egypt’s Eslam Ahmed Aly Mohamed by 14 ÔÇô 8. After a promising start that saw him lose a closely fought first round by 4 -3, Gaasite then lost the plot and was beaten 6 ÔÇô 3 and 4 ÔÇô 2 in the second and third round, respectively.
The boxers’ loss now means Botswana will send only one boxer, Oteng, to the Olympics. Commenting on the events in Morocco, Botswana Boxing Association (BOBA)’s Publicity and Information Secretary, Willoughby Kemoen said the results were unexpected, considering the extensive training the boxers had prior to the qualifiers. The BOBA spokesperson says the big margins by which the local boxers lost ‘left much to be desired.’
Kemoen was, however, quick to point out that the losses, mostly to the North Africans, was a wake-up call to his association to look into how to stop the continuing dominance of North African boxers, not only on local boxers but also on African boxing.
“We also need to look at these North African countries’ structures and benchmark from them if we are to improve our boxing,” Kemoen said.