Kenya: How Coach Odhiambo is Keeping Nakuru Youth Away From Crime

Peter "Dynamite" Odhiambo, a former member of Kenya's national boxing team "Hit Squad," is a popular figure at Kaloleni Social Hall in Nakuru town, where he has been nurturing the next crop of boxers since 2017.

Odhiambo, who started his boxing career at 'Madison Square Garden Gymnasium' located at Nakuru Amateur Boxing Club in the 1980s, is credited with single-handedly helping upcoming boxers in the region to discover their talents.

A successful boxer who horned his skills at the club regarded as the cradle of boxing in Kenya, he now spends his time nurturing future stars alongside his fellow veteran boxer, Hungarian-trained Muthee "Carlos" Mwangi who has close to 30 boxers under him at the club.

Odhiambo's training programme had been progressing well until coronavirus struck, forcing him to suspend training and send the boxers home as government banned all sports activities and social gatherings to contain the spread of the deadly virus.

Coach Odhiambo is using boxing to fight criminal activities in the area that is the "operational base" of a criminal gang known locally as "Confirm."

The group has made headlines for swindling Kenyans out of hundreds of thousands of shillings through fake mobile telephone transactions.

"Boxing training has been suspended as we don't want any of our pugilists to be infected, and there is no need to defy the government's directive. I urge my boxers to keep safe and observe social distancing guidelines," Odhiambo told Nation Sport at the club.

Odhiambo said Kaloleni Boxing Club has attracted close to 20 boxers from the slums of Kivumbini, Kaloleni, Paul Machanga and Manyani in Nakuru.

"This (coronavirus) pandemic has affected all sports in the country and globally. It is not worth risking the lives of our boxers," said Odhiambo.

The former Olympian said that he has advised his boxers not to relax but to continue doing roadwork. "I have advised them to go for roadwork starting at 6am in Milimani area and to observe social distancing so as to avoid clashing with the police during dusk-to-dawn curfew," said Odhiambo.

One of his boxers was arrested while doing road work at Milimani area shortly after 5am, something he terms "unfortunate."

"Boxing is a disciplined sport. I urge my boxers to respect the government and Ministry of Health directives to stop the spread of coronavirus," said Odhiambo.

Coronavirus struck at a time the former boxer was preparing his team for intermediate and novices competitions.

"The club is facing serious financial challenges, and Covid-19 has hit us hard. All our plans have been disrupted," added Odhiambo.

But even before coronavirus struck, Kaloleni Boxing Club missed many local tournaments due to lack of money.

"The county government should support clubs such as ours by setting aside funds for them. A budget of Sh500,000 could highly uplift the dwindling standards of boxing in the region," noted Odhiambo.

The club, formerly known as 'Tsunami' has recruited one of the most promising boxers in Joseph Oluoch, and Odhiambo describes the welterweight pugilist as a "potential Hit Squad prospect."

Other promising boxers at the club include Emmanuel Otieno (lightweight), Benjamin Mwinami (light heavy), Kevin Ndung'u (flyweight) and Mike Mwangi (bantamweight).

Odhiambo started hitting the punching bag in 1985 at Nakuru Day Secondary School at Form Three.

Nakuru Day and Menengai high schools were the only public schools in Nakuru town that had boxing rings at the time.

He was scouted by veteran coach Peter Morris who was impressed by his boxing skills during Rift Valley Novices Championships at 'Madison Square Garden' and recruited him to join the club.

He later joined the defunct Kenya Posts and Telecommunication Corporation (later renamed Telkom Kenya) and won all his matches in the annual Kenya Communication Sports Organisation games.

He also dominated Kenya Open tournaments in the middleweight category and often floored his opponents in the opening stages of his bouts with hard-hitting and explosive punches, prompting Nation Sports reporter Stephen Ongaro to give him the nickname "Dynamite".

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