Fondly regarded by many as the best welterweight fighter of his time, former Kenyan boxer Absolom Okinyi has criticized the current level of the sport in his country.
Speaking in an interview published by Chinese media outlet, Xinhuanet, 44-year-old Okinyi lamented that Kenya simply isn’t producing the same quality of boxers today, compared to when he and other champions were at their peak during the 1980s and 1990s.
“Boxing is not where we left it. The sport is barely recognizable, unlike in the past when we had a vibrant national league with many clubs in contention”, Okinyi stated of the lack of serious Kenyan contenders for continental and international boxing titles.
Under current circumstances, it seems unlikely that Kenya will ever produce great talents in the sport such as American heavyweight star, Deontay Wilder, who is the -550.00 boxing betting favorite to win his next fight against Luiz Ortiz later this year.
One of many pugilistic talents during his era, Okinyi was inspired by the success of legendary Kenyan boxer, Robert Wangila, who became the first African to win an Olympic gold medal, triumphing in the welterweight division at Seoul in 1988.
Wangila tragically died at the age of 28 following a bout with David Gonzales in Las Vegas. Although the referee stopped the fight amidst protests from Wangila, he later slipped into a coma in his dressing room and never recovered.
The legacy of Wangila and his 1988 Olympic gold inspired a generation of successful Kenyan boxing champions, including Okinyi, who won silver in the welterweight division at the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kyala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Kenya’s Commonwealth golden era
The 1990 Commonwealth Games in Auckland, New Zealand, were arguably one of the greatest years for Kenyan boxing. George Onyango won the heavyweight gold medal, while Joseph Akhasamba also won gold in the light heavyweight division.
Nicodemus Odore won a silver medal in the light-welterweight competition, as did Abdurahaman Ramadhani in the light-flyweight division. There were also bronze medals for David Gakuha at featherweight and Maurice Maina at flyweight.
At the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Victoria, Canada, the medals kept on coming for a supremely talented pool of Kenyan boxers. Omar Ahmed won heavyweight gold and David Anyim took super heavyweight silver, while Odhiambo Opiyo earned light-heavyweight bronze.
Peter Wanyoike won middleweight bronze, Duncan Karanja a flyweight silver, while Abdurahaman Ramadhani triumphantly followed up his 1990 silver with the light flyweight gold medal at the 1994 games.
More support needed for Kenyan boxers
Since the 1998 Commonwealth Games silver for Okinyi at welterweight, and aside from flyweight silver for Benson Gicharu at the 2010 games in Delhi, Kenyan boxers haven’t been able to achieve more than a handful of bronze medals. with rarely any having made the transition to becoming professional.
For those reasons, it appears that Okinya is bemoaning a lack of support for the current generation of boxing talents. Better quality training facilities and coaching are needed, along with increased financial support and promotion, if Kenya is to produce genuine champions in the future.