When the bell rang signaling the start of the three round qualifier, the two boxers each moved forward not wanting to lose out on the opportunity to score early points.
Benson Njangiru, the first Kenyan chasing Olympic medals bullyied forward trying to push back Abdelaal Hesham into the corner, the Egyptian quickly retreated threw a jab as he advanced. It was definitely a close first round as each boxer managed to land some scoring shots on his opponent to tie 6-6.
Hesham was the aggressor in the second round as Njangiru continued to show purpose, in their bout at ExCel Centre, refereed by Almonte Martinez from the Dominican Republic. She is the first woman to referee an Olympic Games bout.
The Egyptian worked behind a solid guard, which blocked a fair amount of Njangiru’s offense, but more worrying was that for every punch he released, the Kenyan dropped his guard.
“We noticed the boxer knew Benson is good so he was on the counter,” explained Kenyan coach Patrick ‘Mont’ Waweru. “Especially because Benson kept dropping his guard.”
All the three judges were unanimous on a score of 5 for Njangiru, the silver medallist from the Commonwealth games, against Hesham’s 8.
They both worked behind a solid guard at the start of the decider, each managing to steal some powerful punches. It was close. But the Egyptian a bronze medallist at the World junior looked more relaxed, cushioned by this three-point lead. This would be a close contest, a 5-5 tie, and the final decision in favour of the Egyptian, 19-16.
“Whenever I released my punches I dropped my guard let it open. My guard was not solid; I exposed myself,” rued Njangiru.
“I should have proved why I won the African silver in the qualification but in the he proved to be a worthy silver holder (from the Olympic qualifiers in Morocco).”
He continued: “They always have an advantage over me as they get to watch my videos, games and come well prepared. All I managed to watch of him was when he fought for the bronze(World junior) in 2010.”
But as he had hoped stepping into the Olympic rings gave him all the motivation he needed to carry on and live to fight, looking forward to a better bout in Rio de Janeiro, the 2016 Games.
“I became an Olympian when I stepped into the ring, I was excited and was confident and I knew guys were watching and cheering me back home,”Njangiru, 24, said.
“ I gave it my best but his comeback after the first round was too fast. I take it in my strides, I will come back to watch the bouts and learn, pick something new.”
For now Kenya’s 28 year wait for an Olympic boxing gold continues,as the winnermoves to take on Uzbekistan’s fly champion Latipov Jasurbek, seeded third here in London.
Earlier African Champion Bostwana’s Oteng’ Oteng’ who denied Njangiru the gold in Morocco also lost a closely contested bout 14-12 to Puerto Rico’s Jevier Cintron.
Next up will be Elizabeth Andiego's preliminary middleweight bout against Kazakhstan’s Marina Volnova on August 5.
Evelyn Watta in London
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