Pakela faces setbacks in Busto Arsizio Olympic qualifiers


…as he eyes redemption in Bangkok


MASERU – Navigating through the first World Olympic Boxing Qualifiers in Busto Arsizio, Italy, proved to be a formidable challenge for Arena Pakela. The esteemed boxer from Lesotho faced tough opposition, succumbing to a Trinidad and Tobago counterpart in the preliminary stage of the men’s 71 kg category on Tuesday. Rethabile Ntiea, the Public Relations Officer of the Lesotho Boxing Association (LeBA), said Pakela’s journey in the qualifiers came to an end as he experienced defeat in both the second and third rounds of the match.

“Reports from Busto Arsizio indicate that Pakela asserted dominance in the first round but faced setbacks in the subsequent second and third rounds,” Ntiea shared in a recent interview with Public Eye. He added: “I believe he encountered a formidable opponent, and the outcome might be attributed to insufficient preparation, given Pakela’s challenges in securing suitable opponents before the qualifiers.”

Ntiea acknowledged the challenging circumstances for Pakela in Busto Arsizio, saying the competition was never expected to be easy for him. He said his weight (71 kg) had been challenged by a total of 70 boxers, all striving to secure a spot in the upcoming Olympic Games scheduled to take place in Paris, France, from July 26 -August 11. “There were 70 boxers in his weight class, and only the top four were to qualify. Therefore, Pakela was expected to defeat at least five boxers.”

This marked the second occasion that Pakela failed to qualify for the Paris Olympics. The initial setback occurred during the African Olympic Boxing Qualifiers held in Dakar, Senegal, in September of last year. Pakela came remarkably close to securing a slot in the Paris Olympic Games during the Dakar qualifiers, where he clinched a bronze medal. Earlier, he had shown that the Busto Arsizio qualifiers would pose a greater challenge compared to Dakar.

This anticipation stemmed from the fact that the Dakar qualifiers mainly featured African boxers, whereas the Busto Arsizio qualifiers included competitors from around the world. However, Pakela’s Olympic journey is not yet concluded. Ntiea revealed that the accomplished boxer would be granted another opportunity to qualify, with the upcoming World Boxing Olympics qualifiers scheduled to take place in Bangkok, Thailand, from May 23-June 3.

“Yes, he is certainly heading to Thailand for the second World Boxing Qualifiers. “I don’t believe that will be a problem because he is on the Olympic Solidarity Scholarship,” said Ntiea. The LeBA spokesperson said Pakela would have the opportunity to prepare for the Bangkok qualifiers during the upcoming Mandela African Boxing Cup, set to take place in Durban, South Africa, next month.

“Prior to heading to Thailand, we will host the Mandela African Boxing Cup, which he can leverage as part of his preparations for the Olympic qualifiers.” Ntiea emphasised the high level of competitiveness in the Mandela African Boxing Cup, with boxers from all 54 African countries competing for titles. As of now, Lesotho boasts two athletes who have already qualified for the Paris Olympic Games including Tebello Ramakongoana and Michelle Tau. Ramakongoana secured qualification during the World Athletics Championships held in Budapest, Hungary, in August last year, while Tau qualified during the recent African Taekwondo Qualification tournament held in Dakar, Senegal, last month.

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