Can Nigeria Win Boxing Medal In Rio? | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Can Nigeria Win Boxing Medal In Rio?

Posted: May 14, 2016 at 3:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Chibuike Chukwu

LAGOS – Nigeria has always relied on boxing in its desire to win medals at the Olympics, the Commonwealth Games and or the All Africa Games.
The reason is not farfetched. This is because boxing produced the country’s first medal (bronze) at the Tokyo Olympics in 1964. Boxing also accounted for six of the 23 medals the country has won at the Olympics since taking part.
However, the last time the country won boxing medal at the Olympics was in Atlanta. Will Rio Olympics be different or the country will return with no medal as was the case in London?
The only sport that surpassed boxing at the Olympics in terms of medals won is athletics that accounts for 13 medals at the Olympics. Football has won two, while weightlifting and Taekwondo each won a medal.
Nojim Maiyegun won the country’s first medal, a bronze, in the men’s Light Middleweight. At the Munich Olympics in 1972, Nigeria won another bronze in boxing through Isaac Ikhuoria.
At the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984, Peter Konyegwachie won silver in the men’s Featherweight.
At the Barcelona Olympics, the duo of David Izonritei and Richard Igbinegbu each won silver in Men’s Heavyweight and Men’s Super Heavyweight. At the Atlanta Olympics, Duncan Dokiwari won bronze in the Men’s Super Heavyweight. This bronze remains the last medal by Nigeria in the sport at the Olympics.
Nigeria has also fared well at the Commonwealth Games. A. I. Garuba was the first man to win a Commonwealth medal for Nigeria at the 1954 event in Vancouver, Canada. Edward Ndukwu and Anthony Andeh, won gold medals at the 1966 Commonwealth Games in Kingston, Jamaica, with Maiyegun winning bronze. Fatai Ayinla won silver also in Kingston while he bettered the feat with a gold medal in Edinburg in 1970.
Obisia Nwankpa won Gold for Nigeria at the Christchurch Games in 1974 in New Zealand, even as Ikhuria won bronze. This is even as Konyegwachie won gold in Brisbane, Queensland in Australia in 1982 and Charles Nwokolo won Bronze. Jeremiah Okorodudu won bronze in Brisbane, while David Dafiagbon won gold in Auckland, New Zealand in 1990.
In 1994 at the Victoria Games in Australia, Nigeria’s boxers came back with three medals, with Dokiwari, Albert Eromosele and Rasmus Ojemaye winning a gold medal and two silver medals respectively.
In the Manchester and Melbourne Games in 2002 and 2006, Albert Jegbefumere and Nestor Bolum won gold and bronze medals respectively.
After what can be described as a near-glorious era in boxing, Nigeria has continued to stutter, winning only three bronze medals at the last Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland. The country’s performance at the London Olympics was nothing but poor.
With the Rio Olympics at the corner, what ate the country’s prospects in the sport? There is no light at the end of the tunnel, with qualification not yet secured for some of the boxers.
Nigeria took 10 boxers to the Rio Olympics qualifying tournament in Cameroon last March, only Efe Ajagba qualified. Three others are expected to take part another qualifying event in Azerbaijan in June. The consequence is that Nigeria may be in Rio with only a boxer.
Obisia Nwankpa, a former boxing coach, rued the absence of national championships, expressing the hope that foreign tour and participation in world championships would have helped boxers.
“Training tours and participation in world championships would help boxers prepare better for the Olympics, but it’s a shame that for two years now, there is no open national championships.
“The boxers we intend taking to the Olympics ought to have some preparatory fights. The talent might be there, but they also need to be in tournament mood.”
He said the welfare of the boxers was not prioritised, faulting the entire preparation.
“What we did in two weeks is what other countries will do for months. There wasn’t enough motivation for the boxers. Can you imagine that they were not paid their allowances? They went home empty handed. We need to arrest this slide in our country’s sports.”
Segun Olalehin, a boxer, disagreed with Nwankpa, saying that there was a great prospect for the country at the Rio Olympics boxing event.
“We have great boxers in the team. I believe they will do well. The last Olympics were a bad outing, but at the last All Africa Games, we won four gold medals. That’s great promise.
“I will not be part of Nigeria’s Olympics team due to injury but I know the capabilities of the boxers that will represent the country,” he said.