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Africa Games

Accra 2023 countdown: Sierra Leone opt for quality other than quantity with new weapon

Sierra Leone Boxing Association (SLBA) are not taking chances in their quest for glory in this year’s African Games in Accra, Ghana, from March 8-23.

Under the visionary and ambitious leadership of President Solomon Kargbo, they’ve decided to go for quality other than quantity.

That’s why Kargbo has brought on board a lethal Irish weapon with roots in Sierra Leone, 21-year-old Josefien Angel Betis (pictured), to strengthen his team for this important sporting extravaganza in Accra.

The seven boxers picked to represent Sierra Leone are:

Women:

Sara Haghighat 50kg
Josefina Angel Betis 60kg

Men:

Wisdom Ansah 51kg
Abu Kanu 57 kg
Mohamed Sillah 63.5 kg
Christina Thomas 71kg
Ismayl Sillah 80kg

Josefien is the Irish national champion and European U-22 bronze medallist and a former Netherlands junior and youth champion.

Kargbo is brimmimg with confidence with Josfien in his team now.

“We boxing family members in Sierra Leone are very excited Josefien has joined our team. It gives us more hope and confidence, we’re sure she can also repeat the success of Sara during the 2022 Africa Championships,” said Kargbo who recalls the historic achievement of Canada-bred Sara at the Africa Championships in Maputo where she won gold in the bantamweight division.

It was a major victory for Sierra Leone to scoop their first ever gold medal in Africa’s premier boxing event.

“We also have Christina coming from London, Ismayl from the USA and Wisdom from Ghana. All these are capable boxers whom we’re banking on,” said Kargbo.

“You see when you’re going for war you pick on your best soldiers, we can’t gamble. We want to win three gold medals in Accra. We will do it.”

The home-based boxers in the team are Abu Kanu from Police Boxing Club, Mohamed Sillah and reserver boxer Asu Coker both of whom are members of Prisons club.

In addition to Josefien, other boxers who will represent Sierra Leone for the first time are Wisdom Ansah and Ismayl Sillah.

Expounding on Josefien’s eligibility to represent Sierra Leone, the Sierra Leone Boxing Association Communication Director, Alhaji Koroma, said:”Josefien Angel’s mum and grandfather are from Sierra Leone. Our state law provides in our constitution that citizenship is acquired by birth, and Josefien’s mother and grandfather are from Sierra Leone. This qualifies her to represent Sierra Leone. Same with Sara whose great grandfather is from Sierra Leone, that’s why she decided to represent us.

“We also have most of our British-born footballers coming to represent us. We’re harnessing talent well exposed and nurtured overseas as we also build our own homegrown boxers. This is the first time in our competition history we’re taking more of our foreign-based boxers, we’re preparing our homegrown boxers for the Olympic qualifiers. In the last Africa Games, we invited Dedra as the only foreign-based boxer.”

Koroma said this will be Sierra Leone’s fourth appearance in the African Games, and having not won a medal so far, he’s confident this time around they’ll finally win medals in the Accra Games.

In the 2019 African Games in Rabat, Morocco, Sierra Leone was represented by four boxers namely talented Zainab Keita 70kg and Dedra Chestnut 60kg while the male boxers were Samuel Cho Kamara 75kg and John Brown 60kg.

Zainab stamped her authority as one of the most successful homegrown talent when, together with Sara Haghighat, gave Sierra Leone two gold medals at the 2022 Zone Two Championships hosted in Sierra Leone’s capital city, Freetown. The hosts placed a creditable third position with two gold, seven silver and five bronze medals behind the winners Senegal and third-placed Cape Verde in this zonal tournament attended by 15 countries.

At the 2022 Commonwealth Games, Zainab was ranked among the ten best boxers in her light-middleweight division. She’s currently in England for further specialized training in preparation for major tournaments ahead.

There’s also another promising female boxer, Isha Sesay Fofanah who won a silver medal in the Zone Two competition in the flyweight category. Following her impressive performance in the zonal event, the boxing body secured a scholarship for Sesay to travel to France for further training and also enhance her education. She’s still based in France.

Credit: AFBC Communications

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