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Kenya may be best known for its long distance runners, but the country’s sporting talent happens to extend beyond just this one sport. Boxing, too, has a long tradition in the country. First introduced by companies such as the Kenyan Railway Service back in colonial times, it was from these very gyms that Kenya produced boxing talent which took it to the forefront of the sport in the 1980s.

To many of Kenya’s youth, boxing provides an essential outlet from the everyday struggles of life. Not only do boxing gyms provide a place where the young can go to escape these struggles, but they offer a better future to those who train hard enough and have the talent to make it as a professional.

Today, over fifty years after independence many of Kenya’s original gyms are still operating, albeit most in a state of disrepair. And while Kenya is still occasionally able to produce world-class boxers, the sport is as a somewhat fragile stage in its existence, as it struggles to regain its former glory. Only time will tell whether it has lost its place on the world’s boxing podium for good, or if the country’s athletes are just biding their time before Kenya erupts onto the world stage again.

 
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Boxers at Pamwani Social Club practice on the club’s punching bags during a training session.

Pamwani Social Club is one of Kenya’s best known boxing gyms and is home to professionals and amateurs alike. With limited equipment, though, everyone must wait their turn during training.

 
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A boxer protects his face with his hands while sparring with a fellow boxer during training.

To the youth boxing provides an outlet not just from the grim reality of most of the boxers’ lives, but also a potential path out. Though becoming an international boxing sensation may be a long shot, boxing does improve one’s chances of being recruited by the Kenyan police and army.

 
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A young boxer rests after a session on one of the club’s punching bags.

Posters of boxers litter the walls of Pamwani, to encourage young boxers during training and as a way to show them Kenyans who have made it in the sport.

 
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A boxer at Pamwani gym spars in front of a mirror while warming up for the day’s training session.

Most of Kenya’s boxers fight in the lighter divisions. This is partly due to Kenyan’s natural physique, but also results from most boxers’ poor backgrounds and inadequate nutrition growing up.

 
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A young boy watches on as older boys train together at Mathare North, a boxing club in Nairobi’s second largest slum.

Older boxers often hold training sessions for the youth in order to pass on their skills to Kenya’s next generation. Boxers will often have to start training as early as eight years old though, if they want a chance at going professional.

 
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Boxers lift weights in a gym next door to Pamwani’s boxing club in order to improve their strength for upcoming bouts.

Unlike most other gyms in Kenya, Pamwani contains a weight room where boxers can work on building up muscle. This gives Pamwani a large advantage over other gyms.

 
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A boxer rests in Pamwani’s weight room after completing a set of weights.

With limited equipment, boxers must do with what they have. Little is ever thrown out, but instead fixed and patched up to be used again.

 
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A young man trains using a skipping rope in order to build up stamina for an upcoming fight.

Besides strength, endurance is an equally important part of being a successful boxer. With Kenya’s famous running pedigree and Nairobi’s almost perfect altitude for training, this is an area in which Kenyan boxers thrive.

 
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One of Pamwani’s older boxers readies himself for a practice sparring session during training.

While some of Pamwani’s boxers are well over the age to ever be able to fight professionally, boxing still serves as an important physical outlet and gives them the opportunity to pass on the skills they have learned to new boxers.

 
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Two boxers spar during a training session.

Pamwnai boxing club is the proud owner of the 1988 Seoul Korea Olympic Games boxing ring, where Robert Wangila made history by becoming the first African athlete to win a gold medal in boxing.

 
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A boxer rests after a sparring session.

Competition in Kenya’s boxing gyms is intense, as boxing for many is their only opportunity out of the lives most were born into.

 
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A boxer, his hands wrapped in tape, holds his hands in front of his face in order to protect it during a bout.

Kenya is currently home to several world class boxers in boxing’s lighter divisions and with a new generation now coming of age, will hopefully continue to produce more stars in upcoming years.

 
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A boxer practices on one of Pamwani gym’s few punching bags during training.

Most boxers train every afternoon, usually going to the gym straight after work. Few boxers in Kenya are able to make a living solely off of boxing.

 
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At the Dallas gym in downtown Nairobi, a boxer has a go on a punching bag recently installed in the club’s new gym.

Dallas gym is one of Kenya’s oldest and most prestigious. Started by the railway company back in the days of colonialism, it continues to provide a place for those living in the area to practice.