For Shaffi Hassan Bakari, boxing started as a passive activity and later a beloved sport. Now, his punches are aimed at a much more bigger dream – representing Kenya on an Olympic podium.
Losing at the African Boxing Olympic Qualification Tournament may have dimmed those hopes for Bakari but the pugilist is holding on to his dream of earning a Tokyo 2020 ticket.
Bakari was beaten by his Ghanian counterpart Sulemanu Tetteh at the qualifying event at the Senegalese capital Dakar in February before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, forcing the postponement of the Summer Games.
Measures taken to curb the spread of the coronavirus have meant Bakari’s training has been jeopardized along with those of fellow athletes and the police boxer is now solely mostly attending to his state duties.
His boxing journey started in Mombasa at Kisauni social hall in 2008 under coach Lemmy ‘Cobra’ Katibi at a tender age of just 14.
“Where i come from, most of our neighbours and friends are boxers. I used to play with them but during evenings they would disappear. When I inquired they told me they go for boxing training so I joined them. I was introduced to coach Lemmy who used to tell me I was special,” Bakari told Citizen Digital.
When he was 17, he was signed by the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) to represent them in the national league and from there he continued refine his trade while studying as a private student at St. Cecilia in Kibra, Nairobi.
Shaffi entered the competition with a bang by defeating big names in the lighyfly category like the then champion Peter Mungai (Kenya Police Team) and Matayo Keya of Kenyatta National Hospital.
In latin they say “Quocunque Jeceris Stabit”, meaning “Wherever you throw it, it shall stand”, the motto of the Isle Of Man in the Great Britain, where Shaffi represented Kenya for the first time in an international youth championship in 2011.
He returned home with nothing to show but lot’s of experience with him and his head held high as the motto of where he had gone as he continue standing tall.
He came back to Kenya and continued to play for KDF in the national league having hopes of joining the forces which never happened , hence in 2017 he joined the Kenya Police forces and team ‘Chafua Chafua’ where he thanked them immediately by winning the national lightfly title.
The same year he represented the country in the African Championships in Congo Brazaville where he got himself a silver medal.
The following year he again got the honours of waring the national colours in the commonwealth games where he lost in the second round, only to redeem himself in the East Africa Championship in Tanzania by winning a Gold medal in 2018.
Since his fierce competitor in the league Peter Mungai retired in 2015, Shaffi has been enjoying supremacy in the lightfly and even fly weight where he started to compete recently.
His joy may not last for long if we go by what most boxing paundits are saying behind the curtains that Mwinyi Kombo Faki from Kongowea Club is the one who will come to silence Shaffi when they come to meet in the ring.
“I believe the paundits have gone very far in this because I have never met Mwinyi in any fight, but they are free to air their views but the ring will come to decide when we eventually meet, where action and empty talk will be separated”. Said Shaffi with much confidence.
In this interview Shaffi is categorical that he has not attained his dreams on the ring.
“Oh noooo, Mkalla am yet to accomplish my biggest mission which is to represent my country in the Olympics”. Added the young man who is adored by many upcoming boxers in the coastal city of Kenya.
On the other hand the Covid-19 pandemic has jeopardized normal training programs for many athletes , and Shaffi is not exempted. And many are worried that he will not be at his best especially after many police boxers ended up being deployed into the core duty of maintaining law and order during this pandemic.
“Corona has really affected many in their day to day activities and especially on the financial side. But if you have resolutions you remain focused until you make it. Am following all the directives of the government in keeping safe , practicing intensely and working so that I attain my dream of going to Tokyo”. Conluded Shaffi who at times trains his 9year old son, Lukman Shaffi.
But national team coach Musa Benjamin believes the special training program that he keeps on sharing with them will make sure they remain at near there best.
“I gave each and every national team boxer a special training program to adhere to and its my hope they are following it to the later”. Said coach Musa.
In other corners of the world like Great Britain, their Olympic programme will begin contact training next week as GB Boxing progresses to stage two of the return to training process detailed in the Government’s Elite Sport Return to Training Guidance.
Boxers will be able to part in technical and open sparring sessions with each other and do pads with the GB Boxing coaches provided strict protocols are followed.
According to the rules sparring will be confined to designated groups of boxers and pads sessions can only take place if the coaches are in personal protective equipment and the boxers wear a face mask.
The training camp, which will run from Monday to Thursday (22 – 25 June 2020) is the third week back in the GB Boxing gym after GB Boxing returned to training on 8 June, initially under strict social distancing guidelines.
The last world boxing Olympic qualifiers will be held immediately the Covid-19 pandemic is controlled in the world.