For the first time ever, Mozambique won the Africa Boxing Confederation Championships which ended in Maputo on September 17.
Inspired by their two world championships medalists, light-middleweight Alcinda Panguane and middleweight Rady Gramane, and a roaring partisan home crowd, Mozambique won five gold and two silver medals to dethrone defending champions Cameroon.
Algeria, with nine finalists, were favorites for the overall crown but ended up in second position with four gold, five silver and six bronze medals. Zambia finished third with four gold and three bronze medals, followed by Morocco who collected two gold, five silver and two bronze medals.
Cameroon and DRC tied for fifth with two gold, three silver and four bronze medals.
To inspire the boxers and improve Africa’s boxing standards, the Africa Boxing Confederation (AFBC) introduced prize money for the first time in the continental boxing event, the 20th edition since the first one held in Cairo in 1962. Gold medalists received $10,000, silver $5000 and $2,500 for bronze medalists.
Mozambique’s first gold medal came via Panguane, who outpointed DRC’s Brigitte Mbabi 5-0 in a light-middleweight bout. Panguane dominated from the opening bell, tormenting Mbabi with her jab and timely combinations amid thunderous cheers from home fans. Mbabi was unable to shake the southpaw Panguane with any telling punch.
“I enjoyed my fight and the support from our fans, she didn’t trouble me with any punch,” said Panguane.
Encouraged by Panguane’s victory, Gramane stopped Algeria’s Djouher Benan in the third round of their middleweight bout. The southpaw Gramane started the fight with rapid combinations to Benan’s face, forcing the referee to give the Algerian boxer one standing eight count. Gramane maintained her workrate in the second round as Benane backpedaled, unable to shake her stronger opponent, and received two more standing counts. The referee decided to stop the fight in the third round to save Benane from further punishment.
Mozambique maintained their winning ways in men’s bouts as minimumweight Yassine Issufo, featherweight Armando Sigauque and cruiserweight Albino Gabriel won their fights to put the icing on the cake. Issufo beat Cameroon’s Marcial Wouang 5-0 on points, Sigauque defeated Kenya’s Samuel Njau 3-2 and Gabriel beat Cameroon’s Arouna Ntosengeh 5-0.
Olympians Boumaysia Boualam and Khelif Imane were among Algeria’s four gold medalists. Boualam, a gold medalist in the 2019 African Games in Rabat, outpointed Morocco’s Rahab Cheddar 5-0 at light-flyweight while Imane, a silver medalist in this year’s world championships in Istanbul, was just too good for Botswana’s Aratwa Kasemang at light-welter. The southpaw Imane controlled the action with her jab and one-two combinations, remaining elusive to a Kasemang who mostly punched the air. It therefore came as no surprise when the referee stopped the fight in the second round as a subdued Kasemang failed to contain her more technically superior opponent.
Third-placed Zambia was the most improved side among the countries which took part in the 2017 Africa Championships in Brazzaville where they finished a joint 14th position with Angola, Madagascar and Tunisia—each having two bronze medals. The Zambians this time around under coach Wisdom Mudenda were well prepared and their boxers more refined than they were in Brazzaville.
Commonwealth Games flyweight bronze medalist Patrick Chinyemba, the most impressive Zambian boxer, won their first gold medal without throwing a punch when he earned a walkover against Morocco’s Said Mortaji. On the women’s side, minimumweight Margaret Tembo added the second gold with a convincing 5-0 points victory over Algeria’s Fatiha Mansour. Felistars Nkandu bagged the third gold by outpointing Morocco’s Chymae Rhaddi in a scrappy lightweight bout marred by constant clinching.
Lightweight Andrew Chilata added Zambia’s fourth gold medal with an impressive 3-2 points win over the defending Africa champion Kenya’s Nick Okoth who did not have a formula to cope with his more polished southpaw opponent.
The secretary-general of the Zambia Boxing Federation, Westie Chewe, was overjoyed by Zambia’s success in Maputo but hit out at some judges whom he said robbed his three boxers clearcut victories in earlier fights.
“If it was not for biased officiating on my boxers Emmanuel Katema, Hildah N’gandwe and Stephen Zimba, we would have entered seven boxers in the finals,” said Chewe.
Zambia’s Southern Africa neighbours Botswana was equally impressive, moving from 14th position at the 2017 Africa Championships to seventh place in Maputo with one gold, two silver and three bronze medals.
Featherweight Keamogetse Kenosi won Botswana’s gold when she convincingly outpointed DRC’s Marcelat Sakobi 5-0 in the featherweight final to win her second continental title, having won gold in the 2019 African Games in Rabat, Morocco where she also beat Sakobi on her way to the finals.
Botswana was followed by eighth-placed Mauritius with one gold from light-welter Louis Colin and a silver by light-middleweight Merven Clair. South Africa wasn’t so fortunate, finishing in the ninth spot by winning one gold and nine bronze medals. Egypt finished 10th with one gold and three bronze medals.
Kenya and Uganda, once among the world superpowers in the ring, dropped down to 12th and 15th positions respectively. Uganda placed fifth in the 2017 Africa Championships and Kenya eighth. The Kenyans were poised to move up when their three boxers, featherweight Samuel Njau, lightweight Nick Okoth and heavyweight Liz Andiego punched their way to the finals but they were all beaten. Kenya landed three silvers and one bronze while Uganda returned home with two bronze medals.
The finals of the five-day Africa Championships were graced by the vice president of the International Boxing Association (IBA), Volodymyr Prodyvus from Ukraine. He was flanked by the president of Africa Boxing Confederation (AFBC) Bertrand Mendouga who described the well organized tournament spiced with prize money as the dawn of a new era in Africa boxing.
“We are planning to stage regular tournaments for our boxers to improve the standards. We also intend to hold courses for our coaches, referees and judges because they’re also crucial in the development of boxing in our continent,” said Mendouga who was elected in July this year at their Congress in Algeria and took over from Morocco’s Mohamed Moustahsane.
IBA financed AFBC in staging the successful tournament in Maputo, all in line with IBA’s president Umar Kremlev’s commitment to improve boxing standards in Africa.