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Peter Mwarangu: Master of his craft loses the final bout



When the history of Kenyan boxing is written, several chapters will be reserved for long-serving national team coach, Peter Mwarangu.

The veteran coach, 82, took his final bow in Nairobi on Sunday after ailing for some time.

In 2020, Mwarangu’s family had appealed for help to take him to hospital as he was unable to walk and needed assistance from an aide.

His body is at Montezuma Funeral Home, and preparations are underway for his burial.

Mwarangu leaves behind a rich legacy that will permanently be inscribed in the annals of Kenyan sports history.

Boxing Federation of Kenya President Anthony “Jamal” Otieno and his predecessor, John Kameta, led the boxing fraternity in paying tribute to Mwarangu.

The current national team “Hit Squad” head coach, Benjamin Musa, former World Boxing Association world middleweight champion Ashira Oure and other boxers also paid tribute to the fallen coach.

“We sincerely pass our condolences to the family and friends of the late coach Mwarangu. He served the sport of boxing with a great deal of dedication, passion and commitment,” said Otieno.

“His legacy will live on forever.”

Kameta said: “Mwarangu was true to the cause of boxing. During his time as head coach, Kenya made history at the 1968 Mexico Olympic Games, 1988 Seoul Olympic Games as well as at the 1978 and 1982 Commonwealth Games where the country won titles.”

“Besides being a coach, he was a respected boxing official,” said Musa.

Mwarangu was the founder, and coach of the feared Kenya Prisons Club.

“He was a shrewd recruiter and persistently pushed for the betterment of boxing,” said Musa.

Oure said that Mwarangu was one of the best coaches in Africa. “At one time, when he was my coach, I rarely got it wrong,” said Oure, who featured at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games.

Mwarangu was the head coach of the “Hit Squad” during the 1968 Mexico Olympic Games after taking over from Irishman Max McCollough.

He had over 30 years experience in coaching, taking the boxing team to Olympic, Commonwealth and African Games and many other invitational tournaments.

Mwarangu started off as a boxer in bantamweight category.

He defeated Kenya’s most decorated boxer, Philip Waruinge, when he won the national title in 1962. Waruinge, an Olympian, died on October 19 last year in Nakuru aged 77.

Waruinge, under head coach Mwarangu, won Kenya’s first boxing Olympic medal when he bagged bronze in the featherweight category during the 1968 Mexico Olympic Games.

He lost to Mexican Antonio Roldán who eventually claimed the gold medal after defeating American Al Robinson. In the subsequent 1972 Munich Games, Waruinge won silver.

“I think that fight with Waruinge, who was the most feared boxer then, remains my most memorable boxing duel,” said Mwarangu in a past interview.

Mwarangu was a charismatic person and this earned him respect among fellow coaches such as Charles Anjimbi, Eddie “Papa”Musi, Patrick “Madd” Okoth, Peter Dula, Peter Morris, and Charles Longisa.

Mwarangu would be in and out of the national team in the 70s, but his presence was felt again when alongside the late Eddie “Papa” and Anjimbi, helped the “Hit Squad” win the 1978 Edmonton and Brisbane 1982 Commonwealth Games titles.

In Edmonton, Kenya claimed two gold medals, two silver and three bronze medals.

Stephen Muchoki (light flyweight) and Michael Irungu (flyweight) bagged gold as Patrick Waweru (lightweight) and Abdurahman Athuman (light middleweight) got silver medals.

Douglas Maina (Bantamweight) Michael Mawangi (Light welterweight) Edward Thande (Light heavyweight) went for bronze.

At the 1982 Brisbane “Club” Games, Australia, Kenya got five medals from boxing; three gold, a silver and a bronze.

The gold medallists were Abraham Wachire (light flyweight), Michael Mutua (flyweight) and Hussein Khalili (lightweight), while Charles Owiso (light welterweight) and Mohammed Abdallah Kent (heavyweight) claimed silver and bronze respectively.

Perhaps the main highlight of Mwarangu’s boxing career as head coach was during the 1987 4th All Africa Games, now known as the African Games, held in Nairobi and the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games, Korea.

Kenya bagged a record eight gold medals at the African Games.

At the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games, Kenya made history when Robert Wangila Napunyi became the first African to win a gold medal at the Olympic Games.

The late Napunyi won his welterweight fight with a third round kayo against Frenchman Laurent Boudouni.

Chris Sande got bronze in middleweight at the same Games. Over three decades later after the feat, Kenyan boxers have not emulated these great pugilists.

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