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A leading figure in Moroccan boxing, Mr Makfouni Abdellatif is a qualified 3-Star R&J who officiated at the 2016 AIBA Youth World Championships in Saint Petersburg last November. As Morocco prepares for the 2017 Year of Africa, Mr Abdellatif reveals what he considers to be the secret to the initiative’s, and African boxing’s, success for 2017 and in the run-up to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

How important is the Year of Africa initiative for boxing’s growing popularity on the continent?
I would say that, over the last 20 years or so, the popularity of boxing has been increasing steadily here, so the Year of Africa programme will really be able to build on that up-tick in interest and help to firmly establish boxing among the next generations as they are drawn to the world of sport.

How and why did you start working in the world of boxing and what has it brought to your life?
I first took up boxing because, as a sport, it really appealed to me. Plus, my brothers were training and used to box, so I wanted to get involved too and it just grew from there. Boxing has instilled certain values in me as a person that have helped me in the way I interact with people and how I conduct myself in my daily life. I owe a lot to boxing.

What is the current state of boxing in your country?
Right now, boxing is enjoying a real rise in popularity among men and women in Morocco as a result of our recent successes at international tournaments. I think Africa is ready to produce a new Olympic champion, which would then kick-start another new wave of interest in the sport. A country like South Africa has the capacity to win an Olympic boxing gold.

Who are your current heroes of African boxing?
My heroes are Morocco’s Mohammed Rabii, Omar Abdul from Ghana, N’Jikam Hassan N’Dam from Cameroon and Algeria’s Abdelkader Chadi.

What needs to be done to encourage the next wave of African boxing icons?
We need to build training centres in many more countries so that we can start to produce a greater number of highly trained Referees and Judges and take the sport forward. This is in fact being directly addressed by the Year of Africa, so I think that by improving our supply of officials, we will quickly see a positive impact in other areas of the sport.