Kenya got their bid for boxing medals back on track with two wins in barely half an hour as Shaffi Hassan and Edwin Owuor squeezed past dangerous opponents in their Commonwealth Games preliminary bouts.
And national boxing coach Patrick Thuku believes all of his remaining eight boxers are now capable of going on and claiming some glory.
Thuku and Kenya had already lost lightweight Nicholas Okoth (stopped due to cut) and heavyweight Elly Ochola, who went out through a unanimous points decision on Friday afternoon.
But Hassan and Owuor turned the tide in a dramatic evening session with split decision victories that must have boosted the confidence within the seven-man and three-woman team that Kenya have sent to Australia.
Light Flyweight Hassan disposed of Namibian opponent Matias Hamunyela in a flambuoyant contest littered with wild swings of which only a few landed.
But the meaningful ones were mostly delivered by the 24-year-old Kenyan in the blue vest who took the tightest of 3-2 split decisions at the end of three frenetic rounds.
It was sweet revenge over Hamunyela who had beaten Hassan to deny him a shot at gold at last summer’s African Championships in the Congo.
Middleweight hope Edwin Owuor waited even more nervously at the end his 75kg contest against Tanzania’s Selemani Kidunda.
Owuor, also in blue, controlled the fight with purposeful left jabs before walking onto a speculative right haytmaker that laid the tall Kenyan on the seat of his pants with just 15 seconds remaining.
Stunned by the shot, Owuor sprung straight back up onto his feet to see the final round out but admitted afterwards:
“The knock-down left me very tense as I waited for the decision – I just lost concentration a bit as I tired.”
A relieved Owuor now goes on to meet New Zealand’s Ryan ‘The Lion’ Scaife – rather ominously a demolition worker by trade – in the last 16.
Kenya’s double success was greeted enthusiastically by head coach Thuka who said:
“We were expecting both fights to be close.
“Shaffi is so happy because it was the Namibian boxer beat him when he took the bronze medal in the African Championship.
“This is only his second time in the national team and he followed my instructions perfectly and came through.”
Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth bronze medallist Benson Gicharu steps into the ring for the first time at 1202 (East African Time) today, beginning his bid for a full set of medals against England’s Peter McGrail, having also taken silver in Dehli in 2010.