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Boxing tournament in Rabat at the 2019 African Games in Morocco. Photo: Farid Achache RFI

The boxing tournament of the 2019 African Games began Wednesday, August 21 in Rabat to end on Thursday 29. Popular sports par excellence on the continent, African boxing struggles to emerge champions able to shine at the highest level, even if the practitioners are numerous. Most of the time, federations lack resources.

From our special envoy to Morocco,

Who does not remember the "Rumble in the Jungle"? This fight of the century for the title of world heavyweight boxing champion, which was held in Kinshasa on the night of October 29 to 30, 1974, between Mohammed Ali and George Foreman. Boxing and the African continent are inseparable. For these African Games, the tournament recorded a record participation of more than 200 boxers and boxers.

More skills on the continent

Yet some nations are discovering a form of disenchantment with Noble art. " Boxing was one of the most popular sports here in Gabon, " says Dieudonné Mefaghe, coach of the Panthers. " We are being overtaken by karate, judo or Taekwondo. It's always a problem of means , he adds. We lack skills on our continent, yet we have a huge pool. Boxing in the Maghreb is doing much better than West and Central Africa. We would need an Olympic medal to move forward. The Games is the showcase for all sports . "

At the last African Games in 2015 in Brazzaville, Algeria had taken first place in the team standings of the boxing events. But the last Olympic gold medal of boxing goes back to 1996 in Atlanta, with Hocine Soultani. Champion of Africa, Arab champion, winner of the Mediterranean Games, and also bronze medalist at the Olympic Games in Barcelona in 1992, the pugilist, who has since died, is considered the best boxer in the history of the country.

A rereading ►: Gabonese judo shines at the African Games

Gabon Franck Monbey. Photo: Farid Achache RFI

" Even though we only have two representatives here at the African Games, boxing is doing well in Madagascar ," says Rabarisoa Hery Mamy, president of the Malagasy Federation of Boxing. We have practitioners in all parts of the country. We are sadly lacking equipment. But boxing is still popular in Africa. The goal for our country and our continent remains to shine in the Olympics . "

Boxing, sport with ancient origins, became Olympic in 1904 in Louisiana. South Africa ranks 12th in medals since the entry of Noble Art at the Olympics with 19 medals, far behind the United States, first nation (113).

A means of expression for African youth

In the Al Amal sports hall in Rabat, Gabon's Franck Mombey (57 kilos) was once again able to gauge the public's enthusiasm for boxing, including the songs of Lesotho fans, after defeating a Mauritian. " We need ways to better prepare our competitions, boxing is our way of expressing ourselves ," he admits. Franck Mombey, from a family of boxers, trains in France thanks to an Olympic scholarship.

On the Niger side, the boxers we met felt helpless. " We have no means and we are demotivated. I would like to leave Niger to engage with another country, "said one of them, depressed after his defeat. Sitting under a tree, he blames his coach for not having warmed him before his fight. " We are unable to perform under such conditions, " he says.

" The African Games is first of all a spirit of brotherhood and I believe that boxing has its place, " said Leon-Louis Folquet, president of the Gabonese Olympic Committee. " But boxing in Africa must be reborn, because the potential is huge on this continent. It is necessary that the African boxing finds its technical qualities, it is necessary to multiply the number of the competitions. That's what is missing most to shine internationally, "he concludes.

To re-read ►: African Games: Taekwondo, an increasingly popular sport on the continent