Zim boxers edge closer to qualifying for Summer Olympics

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BY HENRY MHARA

THREE Zimbabwean armature boxers edged closer to their dreams of qualifying to this year’s Summer Olympics set for Tokyo as they continued to impress with some dominant performance at the African qualifying event underway in Dakar, Senegal.

The country is represented by Brendon “Boika” Denes, Freeman “Bvongwez” Mabvongwe and Ndabezinhle Phiri, who continue to defy the problems they were facing.

The Zimbabwean team is the only delegation with no proper kit at the event, and there are no incentives that have been promised or given to the boxers by the government so far.

The only support they received were air tickets to travel to Dakar and money for accommodation and food that they received from the Zimbabwe Olympic Committee.

They are one of the smallest delegations at the games, with other countries sending more than 15 boxers to the Dakar International Expo Centre in the Senegalese capital, to enhance their chances of qualifying to the Olympics, one of the world’s biggest sporting events.

Pictures of the three boxers clad in casual wear (jeans and T-shirts) at the Games, when other nations were properly kitted in tracksuits, went viral on social media last week.

Boika, who is fighting in the 57-63kg weight category, is just one win away from booking his ticket to Tokyo and will need to beat Fiston Mbaya of the Democratic Republic of Congo today in the semi-finals to go through.

Top three fighters in each category qualify to the Tokyo Olympics. The boxing tournament at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo will take place from July 25 to August 9.

It will be a tough fight for Boika though as he will face Mbaya, who is one of the seeded fighters in the competition.

The Charles Manyuchi Boxing Academy boxer is unfazed by the challenge though.

“I don’t fear anyone,” he told NewsDay Sport yesterday.

“He is a good fighter and I respect him. It ends there.

“The competition is too high. We are fighting against very good fighters, but we are going to try our best to make it. We have a good chance,” he added.

Boika defeated Malian Zakaria Diarra in the preliminary round on points, before getting the better of Malawian Harvey Mkacha in the quarter-finals.

Bulawayo-based Phiri was expected to fight in the quarter-finals last night against Sulemanu Tetteh of Ghana in the 48-52kg weight category. He beat Omar Jumale of Somalia in the round of 16 stages. He was given a bye in the preliminaries.

If Phiri beats Tetteh, he will face the winner between Nestor Thomas of Namibia and Algerian Mohamed Flissi, who were expected to fight in the other quarter-final last night.

Bvongwez is also closing in on the ticket to Tokyo after a dominant display in the early stages of the competition.

He beat the lights out of Burundian Nestor Nduwarugira in the preliminary stage of the 63-69kg weight category and was expected to meet Mokhachane Moshoeshoe of Lesotho in the quarter-finals last night.

If he goes through to the next stage, he will face the winner between Jessie Lartey and Chemseddine Kramou of Algeria.