Kenya's boxing team preparations for the Africa qualifiers for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics have gone a notch higher at the Kenya Police Service Mathare Depot, Nairobi County.
The teams that had gone through strength and conditioning sessions since reporting for training 10 days ago, shifted to gloves work with pads and punching bags starting Monday.
The squad of 27 boxers - 18 men and nine women - are shaping up for the Africa qualifiers slated for February 20-29 at the International Expo Centre, Dakar, Senegal. The squad is being handled by six tacticians led by head coach Benjamin Musa.
A final team of eight men and five women will be named before the end of this month for a two-week residential training in Nanyuki before departure February 17 to Dakar.
"The boxers were just coming from holiday hence the need to take them through the base period which involves muscle memory hence the intense conditioning and cardiovascular training," said Musa adding that after the gloves work they will shift to specific preparations next week.
"That will involve tactical, technical and speed work preparations depending on each boxer and their respective weight categories. That will go on to match day," explained Musa.
Musa's deputy David Munuhe, who is also the Boxing Federation of Kenya secretary general, said a residential camp in Nanyuki will be crucial for the final team.
"Right now there are so many distractions with the boxers going home after training. The camp will ensure 100 per cent surveillance. Discipline will be key above all," said Munuhe, who thanked the National Olympic Committee of Kenya (Nock) and Kenya Police for availing some funds and a place for training respectively.
"Our president (Anthony Otieno) has also purchased some equipment that we really needed in training considering the numbers," said Munuhe.
Musa and Munuhe said that they are looking forward to put at least seven boxers both in men and women's teams through for Tokyo Olympics.
Kenya was represented by three boxers at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games - Peter Mungai Warui (light flyweight), Benson Gicharu (Bantamweight) and Rayton Okwiri (welterweight).
The mood in training was ecstatic as boxers promised to put their best foot and jab forward during the qualifiers.
Among them are Team Kenya captain for 2019 African Games Nick Okoth (featherweight), who participated at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Elizabeth Andiego (middleweight), who graced the 2012 London Olympics and Africa Games silver medallist Shaffi Bakari (flyweight).
Okwiri, who turned pro two years ago, has since expressed his interest for the Olympics and has been training with the team.
"We are through with conditioning and now working on punches," said Bakari, who is eager to accomplish his childhood dream by making it to the Olympics. "I sleep and wake up thinking about how I will make it. I thank God for this far."
Okoth said it will be do-or-die for him on the ring after he lost in his attempt to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics. "Not that I am under pressure but most of those in training look upon me for confidence and inspiration being the oldest in the team," said Okoth. "This should be my last Olympics. Most of us will qualify and what I can say it's all in the mind."