NAIROBI, Kenya- Two-time Commonwealth medallist, Benson Gicharu, is on the verge of competing at his third-straight Club Games in Gold Coast Australia after making the provisional ‘Hit Squad’ of 13 on Saturday.
Gicharu who had to fight his way to make the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio-de-Janeiro, Brazil had an easier ride to the April 4 to 15 Commonwealth showpiece in Australia in the team unveiled by the Boxing Association of Kenya (BAK) following the conclusion of the two-day National Championships cum Trials at Kaloleni Social Hall in Nairobi.
Gicharu of Kenya Police who is a two-time Olympian, was among the elite boxers who punched their ticket to Gold Coast with BAK selecting a squad of 10 male and four female pugilists.
Three male fighters will be dropped from the travelling party ahead of departure for Gold Coast.
Africa Lightweight champion Nick Okoth of Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) and Africa Light flyweight bronze medallist; Shaffi Bakari of Police also made the cut.
Eyes were on Gicharu who picked the second medal at the Delhi Club Games in 2010 and added bronze in the 2014 edition in Glasgow, Scotland silenced his critics when he scored a comprehensive 3-0 victory over his domestic rival; Isaac Meja of KDF to retain his national Bantamweight crown.
“I studied him from our last fight in Mombasa in December and was able to win this bout with ease since I had trained well over the holidays. I was also alert mentally,” Gicharu told SportPesa News.
Okoth and Bakari cruised past Ethan Maina of Police and Matayo Keya of Kenyatta National Hospital by the same margins to retain their national belts in the Lightweight and Light flyweight divisions.
Rising sensation; Mohammed Ali of Kongowea booked a ticket to Australia without throwing a punch in the final after his opponent, Simon Mulinge of KDF, was ruled out injured after picking a knock in the preliminaries.
On his way to the final, little known Ali stunned seasoned pugilist, Brian Agina, of Coast 2-1 in the semis.
KDF captain, Nick Abaka, was glad to be back in the Hit Squad after a long absence.
Abaka, who missed the 2008 Beijing Olympics due to a jaw injury, won the Light heavyweight crown with an easy 3-0 win over Peter Abuti of Kenya Prisons.
Christine Ongare of Nairobi was handed a Commonwealth lifeline despite going down 2-1 in the women’s Flyweight final against Veronica Mbithe of Dallas.
“Ongare will still make it to the Games despite the defeat. She will change to the Bantamweight division since we don’t have any woman boxer in that category,”BAK President, John Kameta, explained.
Pioneering Kenyan female Olympian, Elizabeth Andiego of Nairobi, who is making a comeback from a protracted leg injury, will wait a little longer to know her fate after her opponent, Elizabeth Akinyi of Kentract failed to show up for their Middleweight final.
Kameta warned qualified boxers to focus and train hard ahead of the Gold Coast saying preliminary selection was not a guarantee to feature at the Games.
“Because of a directive from the National Olympics Committee of Kenya, we will have to drop three boxers in the men’s squad. This decision will be made during our residential camp,” Kameta noted.
“Part of our training will be on how to reach the medal bracket. Kenya had 10 boxers in the quarters in Glasgow in 2014 and this time round we are targeting a similar number in the semis,” the BAK boss underscored.
Commonwealth Games Preliminary Squad
Shaffi Bakari (Kenya Police)-Light fly
Benson Gicharu (Kenya Police)-Bantamweight
Jacob Kimathi (Kenya Prisons)-Welter
Nick Abaka(KDF)-Light heavy
Elly Ajowi (Kenya Police)-Heavyweight
Lonah Kusa(Nairobi)-Light welter
Elizabeth Andiego(Nairobi)Middleweight (fate subject to BAK’s approval)