Barry Silah @obel_barry
Once again, boxing in Kenya fared badly on the international scene because of a myriad challenges in the sport. Indeed, being one of the popular sports over the years in the country, this year proved tricky in terms of organisation and planning. From factional wrangles to lack of funding; boxing has seen it all.
A few highlights though were that some top-level bouts were hosted in the country, thus attracting domestic sports tourism plus the other issue of emergence of new talent from different clubs.
As from the beginning of the year, boxing attempted to make inroads into the map for what it was once known for. The two registered bodies responsible for running the sport drafted programmes and conducted workshops for their membership.
However in between, Boxing Association of Kenya (BAK) and Kenya Professional Boxing Commission (KPBC) got mired in infighting, which messed progress heavily. Factions ganged up against each other as supremacy wars began in what appeared orchestrated to paint each other in bad light.
The amateur body (BAK under the wings of John Kameta) was more visual with the differences spiralling out of control as his challengers asked him to vacate office for failure to show accountability and frustrate election plans. Indeed the man has been under siege from his own team, which is led by vice-president Albert Matito who have accused him of overstaying in office and losing direction; a claim Kameta denies.
In the process, the factions even went ahead to organise parallel leagues, which created confusion to all and sundry. Insiders claim there was a battle for control of the monies in the organisation though ironically title sponsor SportPesa dropped the annual Sh9 million monetary support from the organisation a year ago.
At KPBC, confusion was more on the transition of leadership following a decision by patron Hillary Alila to vacate office.
Indeed, when he took over the reins from Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja last year, he admitted that the job would be no walk in the park. KPBC was often in the spotlight over issues around organising high-level bouts and failure of reigning on rogue promoters who conned boxers.
Several cases were reported of boxers getting the wrong end of the stick in foreign engagements primarily because they never got proper advice from the association.
These concerns invited the wrath of African Boxing Union (ABU) President Houidenne Houichi who issued a stern warning even to culpable boxing officials. At the same time elections have also been allegedly compromised by individuals who are said to wield influence and have interests in the management of the body altogether.
Perhaps the main positive witnessed this year, would be the retention of the World Boxing Federation Super bantamweight female title at home soil following veteran pugilist Fatuma ‘Iron Fist’ Zarika’s stunning victory over Mexican Yamileth Mercado in October in all out fist fight at KICC Grounds. The Kenyan was buoyed by heavy home support from family, friends and boxing fanatics including Cabinet Secretary of Sports Rashid Echesa.