By Solomon Nwoke
A total of 35 boxers qualified yesterday for the next round of the preliminary stage of the boxing event of the 17th National Sports Festival (NSF) tagged Garden City Games taking place at the Sports centre of the University of Port Harcout.

Out of the number, 23 were male boxers while 12 were female; and they competed in the following weight categories;51kg weight class for the female 52kg, male,54kg female, 56kg male and 64kg weight classes having the highest number of participants. Commenting on the performance of the boxers, the secretary general of the Nigeria Amateur Boxing Federation (NABF), Patrick Uwagbale expressed delight at the large turn out of the participants from 32 states with over 400 boxers. He said, “ we have never had it this big turn out like this before in the Sports Festival, although, we expected this large turn out because the awareness in boxing is grow enormously because this is Sports Festival.

We have 32 states participating in boxing and we are having roughly over 400 boxers. It’s a good development and we are cooping with the large number. We are still in the preliminary stage, but you can see that the standard of performance displayed by the pugilists is far much higher than what we had been experiencing before in this stage, so we are very happy”.

Meanwhile, the preliminiary rounds continue today in other weight categories in the male and female. 15male and 14 female boxers will be knocking each other in the event. Ebonyi Sports director urge athletes to make friends The Director of Sports, Ebonyi State, Emma Utobo has advised athletes in Nigeria to show commitment to which ever sports they are doing and to be friendly in the on-going National Sports Festival (NSF), Garden City Games 2011.Utobo charged the athletes at the Alfred Diete-Spiff Sports Complex, Port Harcourt.The director, a sports veteran, who won gold medal in weight lifting, in Rivers 1988 NSF, stated that sports festival is a place where we can meet old friends and also make new ones.

“To me, sports is all about keeping in touch, making friends and breaking new grounds.”This is my second sports festival here in Port Harcourt. The first time I came here, I was an athlete. I won a gold medal in 1988, in weight lifting and I am happy returning this time as an official,” Utobo said.

According to him, the Ebonyi; State athletes were highly motivated, both financially and otherwise for the games, adding that his athletes were determined to achieve positive results in the festival.“We started most of our games on Thursday. We have lost one in boxing event and won the first football match in the female category. Generally, the athletes are doing fine,” Utobo said.

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