By Carlos Kambaekwa
Local boxing sensation Japhet Uutoni has punched his way to the Summer Olympics to be held in Beijing, China, later this year.
The 29-year-old Uutoni became the first Namibian boxer to qualify for the world’s most prestigious sporting gathering when he beat his opponents hands down during the first leg of the Olympic qualifiers for African states in Algiers, Algeria, last weekend.
The Commonwealth Games gold medalist got his campaign off to a good start by convincingly seeing off his Moroccan opponent with a unanimous points decision and went on to repeat the same feat with another resounding victory over his Ghanaian challenger.
In his final bout, he made short work of his Kenyan opponent when he sent the African champion to the canvas – never to return again, thus leaving the Namibian boxer unbeaten in all three of his bouts that saw him taking the gold medal in the division.
Another Namibian boxer Tobias Munihango came within a whisker of carving himself a place on the aircraft to China, had it not been for the strict rules of the International Boxing Federation which only make provision for two entries in the heavyweight division.
The 24-year-old Munihango won a bronze medal and has been thrown another lifeline to try his luck again during the second and final Olympic qualifiers for Africa at a yet to be decided venue.
According to the Secretary General of the Namibian Amateur Boxing Association Joe Kaperu, the rules make provision for Munihango to fight in the Light Heavyweight division if he manages to shed a few kilogrammes.
Munihango will have a better chance of qualifying since there will be three places up for grabs in this particular division as opposed to his preferred heavyweight division.
Namibia was the only member from the Southern African Region to win a gold medal in Algiers, with Zambia and Botswana also making sure of qualifying berths through a bronze medal apiece.
The seven-member Namibian contingent returned to Namibia over the weekend and the team’s manager Kenneth Muatara applauded the National Sports Commission for their tireless efforts in promoting the interests of local boxing.
Meanwhile, the Namibia Amateur Boxing Association is anxiously waiting for approval from the country’s sports authorities to re-submit a serious bid to host the qualifiers.
The initial bid hit a snag after the association failed to seek approval from the National Sports Commission before submitting their bid to the Amateur International Boxing Association (AIBA) for consideration – an oversight that was not appreciated by sports authorities.
In the meantime, the Namibia Amateur Boxing Association has categorically extended a word of unconditional apology to the line ministry and the National Sports Commission for the error in judgment.
The association will need a budget of N$1.5 million to host an event of such magnitude and the sport officer for boxing development in the line ministry Ambrose Kandjii has made an urgent appeal to prospective financial backers to come on board.
“We want to take boxing to the next level at these Olympic Games and our target is to come back with at least a few gold medals, but to achieve that goal, we need decent funds to prepare our boxers adequately,” said the boxing administrator.
The Namibian entourage to Algeria was given a pittance allowance of N$1 000 each for their two-week stint in the northern African country – something which Kandjii described as a shame for athletes representing their beloved country.
The outspoken boxing administrator called upon on the private sector to assist Government in its quest to promote sport as a social tool for nation building.