Philip Waruinge: Most decorated Kenyan boxer


Philip Waruinge is the most decorated boxer in the history of Kenya boxing. His achievements include a bronze medal and a silver medal at the Olympics along with two gold medals at the commonwealth games and a gold medal at the All Africa games. He was born in Muranga , Central Kenya in 1945 and competed as a featherweight. His father Joshua Nganga moved to Nakuru where he grew up and had his early education. Waruinge was a product of the now defunct Nakuru boxing club which in the 1960s and 70s produced several exceptionally talented and world beating boxers like Steven Muchoki. Waruinge started his boxing career in Nakuru and he was capped in the Kenya team in 1962. He was among the fighters who brought Kenya her first gold medal in the second All Africa Boxing championships in Accra, Ghana in 1964. In the final of the featherweight category, he beat Bedawi el Bedawi of Egypt. His mentor in boxing was a European coach Maxie McCullough. His first major achievement was at the Inaugural AII Africa Games in Congo Brazzaville 1965, where he brought home a gold medal after beating Ihan ben Hassan of Tunisia in the finals. This was the beginning of the rise of Waruinge in the boxing ring. He chalked up very encouraging wins which were a big inspiration to him and the rest of the Kenyans. In the Commonwealth games, Waruinge first participated as a 17 year old in 1962, boxing in the flyweight category. There he won a bronze medal. Quite an achievement for a 17 year old. The 1966 British Empire and Commonwealth Games were held in Kingston. By 1966 he had moved two eight categories up to the featherweight division. There he won the gold medal after beating Paddy Maguire of Ireland in the final. He repeated the feat at the 1970 commonwealth games, when he successfully defended his Commonwealth Games featherweight title in Edinburgh, Scotland by defeating Ugandan Deogratius Musoke in the final. Waruinge first went to the Olympics in 1964 but did not reach the medal bracket. By the 1968 Olympics in Mexico, Waruinge had learned his lessons and parlayed his experience into a bronze medal at the 1968 Olympics. In the process he was awarded the Val Barker award for the most outstanding boxer at the 1968 Olympics. It was the first time in the Olympics that a non gold medalist had been awarded with the prestigious Val Baker Trophy which is normally given to the best boxer during the Games. It was an acknowledgement that Waruinge had been robbed in the semi-final bout against Antonio Roldan of Mexico.

The most significant achievement for Waruinge was in Munich 1972, making his third appearance in the Olympic Games. He was yet again a victim of biased officiating as before in the Mexico games, when he lost by 3-2 decision to Soviet Union fighter Boris Kousnettsov in a tough featherweight final. He returned home with a silver medal. Most people who watched the 1972 Olympic final observed that Waruinge had won but was robbed by the judges. Such was the plight of African boxers during that era. Because the results were determined by a panel of judges, African boxers were often blatantly cheated. Waruinge’s toughest domestic assignment was watched by a packed crowd at Pumwani Social Hall December 1972 during the Kenya National trials. Teenager George Oduori surprised himself and the crowd when he outboxed the three time Olympian Waruinge to full distance in the featherweight.To the dismay of the crowd Waruinge was declared the winner, the decision which was wildly booed. Oduori went on to win a gold medal at the 1973 All Africa games. The other Kenyan gold medalist was Middleweight Peter Dula. Waruinge moved to Japan in 1973 to pursue a professional career. There he fought under an alias: Waruinge Nakayama. His professional record was 14 wins and 10 losses. joined paid ranks in Japan and twice went for world title. His first attempt was against Panamaian Carlos Zarate who stopped him in five rounds and the second was against Mexican Roberto Rigobesto who won the fight in the 9th round. Both title bouts were held in 1978. He inflicted an eye injury in his second world title fight in September 1978. After sometime he retired to concentrate on personal business in Japan where he now lives.

Waruinge died in his sleep aged 77 years. On Wednesday (October 19, 2022) at 2 am in Nakuru.  His wife, Mary Ndeti, said Waruinge  had been sick for quite sometime, battling an illness that Doctors could not diagnose. Waruinge is survived by four children — Lucy, Nancy, Andrew and Tom – and several grandchildren and great grandchildren.


Kenya Boxing Page

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4 thoughts on “Philip Waruinge: Most decorated Kenyan boxer


  2. In boxing it was decided to award bronze medals to both losing semi-finalists rather than make them box for the bronze medal.

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