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Pandemic drives coach back into boxing arena

By Wahinya Henry
Monday, August 17th, 2020
Former Kenya national boxing coach Rodgers Munala (left) during one of his training sessions with professional boxer George Owano in a Nairobi gymnasium. Photo/PD/Rodgers Ndegwa
In summary

Distinguished armed forces coach Rodgers Munala is back in the ring. Munala, who hang his boxing gloves five years ago after a colourful coaching career at the barracks spanning 27 years, was forced by the emergence of Covid-19 to return to the ring.

After passing demolition skills to youthful boxers in the armed forces and the national team as a deputy coach, Munala was enjoying his retirement until the dreaded virus brought with it a clientele keen on staying fit.

Gym Bravo Fitness Centre in Buru Buru, Nairobi, is the present nest for the head of Defence Forces Amateur Boxing Association (Defaba) who in his heyday also deputised national boxing coach Charles Ajimbi.

“People aged 50 years and above who know me reached out to me to train them for physical fitness reasons through boxing at the onset of coronavirus.

I had no choice but to abide,” says Munala. He says the warning by health experts that the aged are potential casualties of the pandemic opened a fresh chapter for him when it was least expected.

“I did not expect to earn cash at retirement and be diverted from my social tasks of serving the community but now I offer fitness services to the aged,” he says.

“The Covid-19 pandemic is causing panic among the elderly across the world and matters in Buruburu were not helped after deaths of two residents in April,” says Munala. “The pandemic has not been kind to the aged. 

Here at the gym, I am offering them hope, especially those with other ailments,” says Munala. 

The retired coach started his boxing career in the populous estates of Nairobi’s Eastlands to break away from the grip of vicious poverty. 

He is best remembered as deputy to Peter Marangu, with whom he prepared the famous ‘Hit Squad’ team that won accolades at the Fourth All Africa Games in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The team also went on to earn glory in the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. Members of the hit squad were Suleiman Bilali from the police who won gold in flyweight, Ben Manga of Telcom’s who took silver in light welterweight, Peter Kariuki of Defaba who won bronze and P Odindo of Kenya Prisons who returned home with a bronze.