Six gold medalists and six more Rio 2016 quota places were confirmed on Friday’s penultimate day of action at the AIBA African Olympic Qualifiers in Yaoundé. With all of the finalists already assured of their spots at the Olympic Games boxing competition in August and eleven countries from across the continent already represented, the final six spaces will be filled after Saturday’s third-place box-offs.
Friday’s two sessions saw the men’s light flyweight (49kg), bantamweight (56kg), light welterweight (64kg), middleweight (75kg), light heavyweight (81kg) and heavyweight (91kg) boxers take to the ring in the Cameroon capital, and it was the host nation’s Simplice Fotsala who won the first gold medal after South African light flyweight had secured his hard-earned Olympic qualification in a box-off against Kenya’s veteran Peter Mungal.
Namibia’s rising star Jonas Junius Jonas took the light welterweight gold after another home favourite, Babou Mahaman Smaila, earned his second Olympic appearance by defeating Congo’s Dival Forele Malonga Dzaiamou in the day’s second box-off.
“I was well prepared for this competition knowing that my opponents would be strong, so I trained hard and added some new combinations to my skills. I have enjoyed every moment in Yaoundé and now I’m looking forward to celebrating at home with my family,” said Namibia’s Jonas Junias Jonas after his gold medal.
Morocco’s experienced Said Harnouf took the last middleweight quota place by winning his box-off against Congo’s surprise package Mpi Anauel Ngamissengue after a huge win for Cameroon’s 18 year-old talent Dieudonne Wilfried Seyi Ntsengue, who knocked down Mauritius’ Merven Clair in the third round and then coasted to a unanimous points win to take the gold.
Tunisia’s All Africa Games winner Bilel M’Hamdi defeated Lesotho’s new sensation Suntele Inkululeko for bantamweight gold, before Morocco’s WSB boxer Mohamed Hamout controlled his crucial box-off with Ghana’s Omar Abdul Wahid to join teammate Harnouf on the plane to Rio.
Uganda’s Beijing 2008 Olympian WSB boxer Kennedy Katende may have lost to experienced Algerian gold medalist Abdelhafid Benchabla in the light heavyweight semi-final, but he, too, qualified for Rio after winning his box-off against South Africa’s Luvuyo Sizani.
“I have been unwell throughout the competition so I am very happy to have got the Olympic quota for Rio, which will be my second Games after Beijing. I could follow the tactics today which we had planned in training and it worked in the ring against my strong South African rival. The most important story is that I am an Olympian once again,” said a delighted Kennedy Katende after his win.
Tunisian heavyweight Hassen Chagtemi will also be heading to Rio after beating Togo’s Kevin Kuadjovi in their box-off, with the gold going to Mauritius’ APB boxer Joseph Kennedy St. Pierre following a gripping battle with Algeria’s Chouaib Bouloudinats.