The year's first continental championships have started in Cameroon's biggest city, Yaoundé, with the African Confederation Championships, running from June 1-12.
The African Boxing Confederation separated the continent into four different zones, each of which scheduled its own zone championships where the medal winners could qualify for the African Championships. The zone championships were held in Morocco, Togo, Cameroon and Botswana.
Africa's World Series of Boxing champion Abdelhafid Benchabla of Algeria reached the Olympic quota as first African boxer at the WSB Individual Championships in China and is on the championships' entry list but will have a great opponent in Tunisia's rising star and Zone I Champion Yahya Mkacheri.
Twenty-two African nations are taking part in the championships: Algeria, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, DR of Congo, Egypt, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Namibia, Mauritius, Morocco, South Africa, Senegal, Seychelles, Swaziland, Togo and Tunisia.
Morocco has qualified for the event in each weight class and the continent's powerful boxing nation has several gold medal expectations such as veteran three-time Olympian Hicham Mesbahi, lightweight former AIBA Junior World Champion Mehdi Ouatine, Beijing Olympian Driss Moussaid and Olympic Games quarterfinalist WSB boxer Mohamed Arjaoui in the heavyweight class.
The host nation Cameroon's best chances lie with light flyweight Willy Thomas Essomba, Babou Smaila Mahaman and welterweight virtuoso Joseph Mulema.
Traditionally strong North African boxing powers Algeria and Tunisia will both be competing with large squads. Next to Abdelhafid Benchabla Algeria's big guns Samir Brahimi, Mohamed Amine Oudahi, Abdelkader Chadi and Abdelmalek Rahou are also gold medal contenders, while Tunisia's flag bearers will be Hassan Chagtemi, Yahya Mkacheri and super heavyweight Ayman Trabelsi.
Despite the fact that Namibia lost its leading position at the Zone IV Championships in Gaborone their boxers are medal contenders in Yaoundé. Former Commonwealth Games winner Japhet Uutoni and Beijing Olympian Mujandjae Kasuto represent the best chances for the South African nation.
Mauritius also have excellent athletes such as Beijing Olympic Games bronze medalist Bruno Julie, who will be competing at bantamweight with gold medal expectations, while his teammate Bocskai Memorial Tournament winner Richarno Colin is also has the top podium step in his sights in Yaoundé.
Botswana secured the first place in the team ranking at the Zone IV Championships in front of the home crowd and strong Ghana did the same at the Zone III Championships in Togo.
The African Championships will be a good preparation for the upcoming 10th All Africa Games, which will be held in Maputo, Mozambique in September just before the AIBA World Championships.
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