National team boxers face uphill battle

Baitshepi Sekgweng
READY TO BOX: Rajab Mahommed

A mammoth task awaits the senior national boxing team as they head to the International Boxing Association (IBA) Men’s World Championships from the 27th of April until the 17th of May 2023 in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

A global event of high magnitude in the boxing calendar, the tournament is set to pit local pugilists against the best from the world over.

Though time has already elapsed, on Monday the team came together for a mini training camp in preparation for the tournament.

The squad comprises of Kobamelo Molatlhegi who will fight in the 48kg category, Rajab Mahommed-52 kg, George Molwantwa in 57kg, Kagoetsile Raokgwathile in 60kg while Kabo Seitshiro will box in the 67kg category.

Head coach, Thebe Setlalekgosi, told Voice Sport this week that while they are determined to give their all at the tournament, they will also use it to prepare for the Africa Boxing Championships slated for Cameroon in June.

“The team regrouped on Monday and the reason why we are starting preparations late is the same old problem of funding. Of course it is very late but this is taking a different toll on us because in games of this magnitude its not right to go there without thorough preparations but there is nothing we can do,” lamented Setlalekgosi.

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With the local sporting calendar on a new financial year, Botswana Boxing Association(BoBA) is yet to have their annual grant which has made it difficult for the team to prepare well in advance.

Just like their female counterparts, the men’s team travel to the tourney is sponsored by IBA.

“It becomes difficult to set standards for a tournament where there was not much preparation. I guess for us it will be to get to see and know our opponents at continental level such as Morocco and Algeria who are powerhouses. So we just need to psychologically prepare our boxers because in most cases they are always good in terms of fitness but we always lack in match fitness, having few fights before a tournament is critical,” shared Setlalekgosi when quizzed about any targets for his side.

According to Setlalekgosi, though they are going to give their best performances, the tournament will also come in handy in terms of offering boxers training with superior pugilists from other countries.

“Even if we are knocked out early in the tournament that will allow us to do sparring and training with other countries, that’s what we did with the ladies last time in New Delhi. Further, as soon as we return we will be going for Africa Championships therefore we have no chances of going out of the country for a camp or friendlies, which means World Championship will also prepare us for the continental showpiece,” he said.

Boxing has a very busy calendar with Africa Games set to come early next year as well as the Paris Olympic games qualifiers.

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As a result, Setlalekgosi is looking to build a solid team which will be competitive for the 2024 Olympics.

“We are going to see more new faces in the team in the months to come. I mostly pick my team based on form not history. Even some of the boxers in the professional ranks you will surely see them since now they are allowed to also fight at amateur stage, so I’m counting on their experience,” Setlalekgosi explained his team selection.

Last month, the ladies team did take part in the Women’s World Championships, where Phekie Bele and Aratwa Kasemang were knocked out in the first round while Lethabo Modukanele’s journey ended in the second round .

Meanwhile, Debswana has increased their sponsorship towards the notional boxing awards from P250, 000.00 to P412, 000.00.

The event slated for the 27th May 2023 is meant to recognize and reward boxers who excelled last season.

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