Botswana’s fists of gold

HARDWORKER: Keamogetse Kenosi

Female boxer packs golden punch

Growing up on the mean streets of Monarch, Francistown, 22-year-old Keamogetse Sadie Kenosi quickly had to learn how to fend for herself.

Indeed by her own admission, despite her diminutive frame, Kenosi was the school bully, often ending up in detention for her quick fists and fiery temper.

Fed-up with the tearaway teen’s behaviour, Goldmine Junior Secondary School’s boxing coach forced the then 15-year-old to take up the sport.

It proved to be an inspired decision.

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Kenosi was able to channel her aggression into something constructive, the discipline of boxing proving the perfect tonic for the high-spirited youth.

Backing up her natural talent with relentless hard-work and impressive dedication, Kenosi’s rise in the ring has been swift. One of only three women in the national team set-up, her career has gone from strength-to-strength, hitting a new high in August when she won Gold at the Africa Games in Morocco.

The Francistowner, a four-time Zone IV winner who thrives on power and energy, now has her sights set on qualifying for next year’s Tokyo Olympics

The Voice’s Portia Mlilo went toe-to-toe with the African Champion recently where they discussed her journey to date and hopes for the future.

Q. How did you get into boxing?

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I started boxing in 2012 when I was doing Form Two at Goldmine Junior School in Francistown.

It is actually very funny how I joined this sport.

I was a bully and was always being punished at the staffroom by teachers for beating others!

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Our school’s Boxing Coach, Gilbert Mambo forced me to join the sport, saying he wants me to put my hands to good use.

I started to love the sport and my mother was happy that she was no longer called by the school head for my indiscipline hearings!

So she encouraged and gave me all the support.

Q. Interesting! But I understand that initially you didn’t enjoy it. What made you persevere?

(Laughing) My first tournament was BISA and I won Gold.

Then I realised it was not a boring sport as I had originally thought!

The other thing is that in boxing, ga go lowe it’s not like a fight, it is just a game.

Teams started to chase me for my signature.

I joined BDF Donga Boxing Club, coached by Ntoti, when I was waiting for my Form Three results.

Then I moved to Gaborone to stay with my sister Vinolia and there was no boxing team at Naledi Senior School.

However, Coach Thebe Setlalekgosi recruited me to join his club DTCB where I am currently training.

Q. What was the break through moment of your career?

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After winning another Gold in the Gaborone 2014 Youth Games, I realised it is more than a game but a talent and a career.

I got a national team call-up and started to take the sport seriously.

I went to represent the country in the Commonwealth Games where I gained a lot of exposure and experience.

Though I did not win a medal, it was an eye-opener.

Q. You won Gold at the Africa Games in Morocco a few months ago. How did it feel becoming African Champion?

I feel so proud of myself and my coaches.

I represented my country with pride.

It shows I am doing something right and it boosted my confidence.

It has not been an easy journey.

The higher the level of competition, the tougher it becomes.

The Botswana Boxing Association (BOBA) sent us to Thailand and France for training before the Africa Games.

It has really helped, especially for female boxers because we are only three so we don’t get enough practice.

I know how my teammates, Aratwa and Thabo, play so fighting them is not challenging unlike when you fight against a new opponent you have never met.

I think going forward if we can have more international training camps, we will qualify and bring home Olympic medals.

The more you train with experienced boxers the more you learn something that can help you win major events.

Q. You compete in the 57kg division. What type of diet do you have to follow to maintain your weight?

We do not have a dietician as national team boxers.

We know what to eat when you want to gain or lose weight.

We do not eat starch. We eat plenty of protein and salads, and drink juice no fizzy drinks or alcohol.

You don’t eat junk and sweet things. On the day of a competition, you have to eat a lot so that you have energy and more power during the bout.

Q. Earlier this month you participated in the World Championships in Russia but lost in the preliminary bout. What did you learn from the competition?

I didn’t play well.

My opponent from Brazil had too much power that I couldn’t match.

I was punching her but it was like I was not doing anything in terms of scoring points because she was overpowering me.

Mind you, I am fighting under 57kg category but she was 60kg and I was weaker than her.

We arrived late and we did not have much time to lose weight!

I learnt that I should go back to the gym and do a lot of lifting and work on my power.

Even when you are good tactically it doesn’t help because if your opponent is stronger she will overpower you.

Q. How are preparations for the Olympic Qualifiers going?

We are now preparing for championships and the whole of December we will be on training camp.

In January we are going for camp outside Botswana for the whole month before going to Senegal in February for the qualifiers.

I hope it will help us in terms of preparation because there are many female boxers who can give us competition and we will have more games unlike when we are home.

We need to up our game because most of our opponents participated in the Africa Games and know our strengths.

Having said that, I believe my chances of qualifying are very high.

It (preparations) will start at the gym. I am going to train harder than before.

My threat is Congo boxers, they fight well!

We will work on movement, making sure you don’t go back and give her a chance to come to you.

Botswana’s fists of gold
CROWNED: Keamogetse Kenosi(far left) during African games in Morocco

Q. What is the first thing you do when you wake up?

(Laughing) When I wake up, at 5am on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, I go for training.

The other days I will be just home, relaxing and watching television since I am not schooling or working.

During camp, I wake up at that time every day!

Q. What are your plans for the future?

I still have six more years in boxing.

My goals are qualifying and winning an Olympic medal.

I also want to win the Commonwealth Games.

After achieving this, I will either retire and coach or progress to professional boxing.

Q. What makes a good boxer?

Listen, respect and follow the instructions of your coach.

It starts from training; do what you are told to do so that you can work on your mistakes and improve your skills.

Failure to do so, you will do the opposite during the competitions and lose games.

You have to be very disciplined.

Q .Now let’s get personal. Does our champion boxer have a boyfriend in her life?

I am single! I’m not in a relationship at the moment and am focusing on my career.

I have no immediate plans to have kids – maybe in the next eight years!

Q. So how do you kill time during the off-season?

I like travelling, especially with my sister.

We do camping to relax our minds. Otherwise I like being indoors.

Before we wrap up the interview, general elections are upon us so let’s talk politics.

Q. Are you happy with parties’ manifestos as far as sports is concerned?

I have registered (to vote) just to exercise my rights but I am not happy with the support we get as sports people.

We struggle to get our allowance.

We are still owed money from 2014 in appearance fees yet we continue to do national duty.

That really demoralises us!

We were only paid appearance fees for the Commonwealth Games in 2017 by Botswana National Olympic Committee.

Sport is also contributing to the economy of this country; it is high time the government takes us seriously.

We are the ambassadors of this nation and apart from mineral resources Botswana is known because of sports.

Q. What do you think the reasons for voter apathy amongst the youth could be?

Youth population is high and our vote can change many things.

I think we are not patient enough to queue during elections to cast our vote.

Maybe electronic voting machine or online voting was a better idea especially for us young people.

If elections were won online, many were going to be shocked by the outcome because people make a lot of noise on social media yet they did not register to vote.

Q. Who is your inspiration?

Our national team coach Master Luza.

He is like a father to me.

Whenever I do not understand something or I want to learn some tactics he always avails himself, even when we are not on national team camp.

My other role model is my mother, Kebareng Motlhatlhedi.

I am told she grew up doing street fights.

When I come home crying that someone was bullying me at school, she would beat me and tell me to fight for myself.

I think I took after her!

Q. Thank God It’s Friday, what are your plans for the weekend?

I will be home in Francistown with my family.

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