NAIROBI, (Xinhua) — For two decades between 1960 and 1980, Kenya had a fearsome boxing team that competed and won titles at major international competitions.
Those were the golden days the country was renowned globally for boxing through the national team “Hit Squad” which could match toe-to-toe with any other national team worldwide. “Kenya had formidable talent that it could parade, three national teams at the same time, if that possibility was there,” the proprietor of Punchline Promotions, Thomas Wamburu told Xinhua during an interview. “The decline started in the 1980s following the decline in national funding in sports of which boxing became the main casualty,” Wamburu noted.
Former lightweight Commonwealth Games champion, Stephen Muchoki, said moss of the clubs that produced champions have succumbed to the vagaries of decades of neglect and wanton due to lack of investment. “Dallas Boxing Club in Nairobi and Nakuru Amateur Boxing Club were two clubs that repeatedly produced national and international champions. They are now dilapidated structures and shells of their former selves,” Muchoki, who was a member of Dallas Club said. In the 1960 and 1970s, the government quasi-bodies such as Kenya Railways Corporation and Kenya Ports Authority among others funded their own boxing outfits.
However, when the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) came along with structural adjustment programs for free market economic policy reforms, the government-owned companies became privatized and they reduced their social expenditure. “Almost every state corporation had a boxing club and these were the first to go along with the boxers who faced retrenchment and the resultant effects were immediate,” Wamburu said. The state of boxing in Kenya degenerated to the extent that in 2012, only one boxer qualified for the London Olympic Games.
During last year’s Rio Olympics, three boxers represented the country and all came back empty handed. This is in sharp contrast to the 1988 Seoul Games when Kenya won gold medal in the welterweight category through Robert Wangila.As a result, boxers from the three clubs from the country’s disciplined forces of the Kenya Police Service, Kenya Defense Forces and Kenya Prisons Service have been left to compete among themselves because their employers are capable of funding them.