Nigerian boxers can still qualify to represent the country at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics scribe of the Nigeria Boxing Board of Control (NBB of C) Remi Aboderin has said.
The country’s boxers missed the African Olympics Qualifiers that held between 20-29 February 2020 in Dakar leading to fears that Nigeria will have no boxers at an Olympic Games for the first time since the 1988 Games in Seoul, South Korea.
Several boxers believing that their final window for making the Games had lapsed, criticised the Nigeria Boxing Federation and the sports ministry for botching their dreams amidst claims of funding challenges.
The boxers had originally missed a first window when they failed to attend the AIBA World Championships last year in Russia.
But speaking on radio programme Top Sports which aired on Lagos radio station Top Radio on Monday, Aboderin explained the reasons behind the boxers’ failure to make the Dakar qualifiers.
He said a misunderstanding between the NBF and the sports ministry led to the ministry approving N12m for a Referee and Judges course in Cameroon in the mistaken belief that the funds were for the Olympics qualifiers in Dakar.
When the NBF then sought funds for the qualifiers proper, the ministry informed that funds were no longer available.
Aboderin, however, said that a final opportunity to make the Games awaits the country’s boxers at the World Qualifiers in Paris scheduled for 13-20 May 2020.
The final World event in Paris will give athletes a second chance to qualify and is open only to boxers who have not yet qualified from the continental events and Aboderin said he expects the sports ministry to provide funding for the trip.
The NBB of C scribe also refuted claims attributed to the NBF that professional boxers have been barred from representing the country at the Games.
The NBF oversees amateur boxing in Nigeria and only amateur boxers have traditionally been allowed to compete at the games. The NBB of C, on the other hand, oversees professional boxing in the country but has oversight over the NBF.
Aboderin explained that a rule change by the International Boxing Association (AIBA) allows professional boxers who are not continental or world champions to compete at the games.
He, therefore, expressed optimism that the country’s professional boxers like Rilwan “Real One” Oladosu and Fijabi Olaide will pick up tickets in France and earn medals for the country in Tokyo.
Boxing has provided Nigeria with its second-highest medal haul in Olympics history and the country’s first-ever Olympic medal was won by Nojim Maiyegun who took the bronze medal at the 1964 Tokyo Games.