Team SA on form to qualify for Rio
The SA National Boxing Organisation (Sanabo) is keeping its fingers crossed that its boxers will do well in the International Boxing Association open Olympic qualifiers in Baku, Azerbaijan, which start on Thursday.
The 10-day event, featuring the cream of the crop of amateurs from around the world, will be the gateway for boxers to book tickets to the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games, which run from August 5 to 21.
A seven-member Sanabo team is due to leave for Baku today to start preparing for the showdown.
The team consists of Sikho Nqothole, Sibusiso Bandla (flyweights), Ayabonga Sonjica (bantamweight), Asanda Gingqi (junior lightweight), Sibusiso Malinga (lightweight), Sizani Luvuyo (light heavyweight) and Akani Phuzi (heavyweight).
The squad spent two weeks in a camp at the Eastern Cape Academy of Sport in Port Elizabeth ahead of the crucial qualifiers.
Sanabo president Andile Mofu said that the bouts in Azerbaijan will determine the fighters’ futures.
“This is a crucial moment for the squad because if the boxers do not qualify, it will be back to the drawing board,” said Mofu.
“The Olympic dream will be over. We are praying that medals will come our way.”
Mofu said coaches Nkosinathi Hlatshwayo and Johan Prinsloo had been working hard on tactics such as defence and ring craft, and he said that the team was motivated.
The focus will be on Sonjica, Nqothole and Bandla to prove their mettle in Baku.
Sonjica lost in the preliminary rounds at the 2012 London Olympics. He feels confident about scoring a victory at the Rio event this time around.
Nqothole and Bandla clinched gold and bronze respectively at the Olympic qualifiers in Yaounde, Cameroon, in March. However, their achievements were not recognised as a passage to the Olympics.
FOCUSED Ayabonga Sonjica goes through his paces during training. He is confident that he will qualify for the Rio Olympics
IN ACTION Akani Phuzi (left) is one of seven South African contenders who will slug it out at the qualifiers in Baku