RIO DE JANEIRO: A Kenyan light flyweight who learnt how to box using just his bare fists because he could not afford gloves battled his way to his country’s second surprise success at the Rio Olympics on Monday.
Journeyman Peter Mungai Warui’s split-points victory left his Chinese opponent Lyu Bin — who nearly had the Kenyan on his back in the third and final round — astonished and in tears.
But the 35-year-old Warui joins compatriot Rayton Nduku Okwiri in the latter stages in Rio and celebrated his narrow victory by kissing his left bicep in front of wildly celebrating Brazilian fans in the 9,000-seat arena who quickly adopted him as one of their own.
Warui, who looked in deep trouble late in the fight against the heavily fancied 21-year-old Lyu, described how he took up boxing at aged nine.
“I had a friend who was a boxer so I followed him,” he said, a large smile forming across his face.
“We didn’t have gloves, I just used my bare hands.”
It was not until he became a teenager that he was finally able to get his hands on some boxing gloves.
“When I fought with gloves it was amazing,” he said, adding that his close boxer friend gave them to him as a gift.
“There is a big difference between with hands and gloves — with hands it is much more dangerous.”
Asked by AFP if he thought bare-hand fighting was good training for the real thing, he added: “It was not good. It was like fighting, it was an assault, not sport.”