The mind conjures up the shape a muscular tomboy, but no, in person she is a lanky lass with a broad smile and a soft handshake.
Beneath the deceiving frame lies a fierce boxer capable of unleashing a bone-crushing punch.
Keamogetse Sadie Kenosi recently reached the global spotlight, after she became the first ever female boxer to qualify for the Olympic Games.
She is also the first woman boxer to book her spot at the Tokyo global spectacle scheduled for July.
Kenosi is also the first female Botswana Olympian outside athletics, since the country started participating at the games in 1980.
The energetic Kenosi said circumstances pushed her towards a career in boxing, while still a student at Goldmine Junior Secondary School.
With height on her side, Kenosi was a netball player and even today she can still shine in the court.
“Hei, ne ke betsa. Ne ke shapa bana ba batho! I was a bully and one day boxing coach, Gilbert Mambo advised me to attend boxing sessions. Instead of being punished every week, he realised that it was better if I channelled my energy into something positive,” she said with a chuckle.
Born 23 years ago in Francistown, Kenosi is last born in a family of five. “I came to Gaborone for my senior secondary education at Naledi in 2014. I came here because of Thebe Setlalekgosi. He saw my potential during BISA Games. So he wanted me to be closer to him,” she said, about one of Botswana’s best yesteryear amateur boxers.
Kenosi said at the beginning, she proved that she had something special with powerful punches that made her coach wonder where she got such power.
“Within a week of learning to box, I caught the drift. I was sparring with fellow girls, but I was too powerful for them. My coach shifted me to train with boys. I still overpowered them and the coach decided to face me. When he felt my punch, he retaliated and hit me hard on my chin and I fell,” she said, as she burst in laughter.
Within four months, she competed in the 2012 BISA Games and scooped a gold medal. She continued dominating BISA Games until 2015.
“During BISA Games, Setlalekgosi had boxers that he coached and he also watched me during Botswana Boxing Association (BoBA) interclub competitions when I was still with BDF club. He realised my potential, hence he poached me to join DTCB in 2014,” she said.
Kenosi said Setlalekgosi was a patient man and he followed her home when she missed training. She spoke passionately about the man adding that he believed in her.
“Setlalekgosi guided me to a gold medal during the Gaborone 2014 African Youth Games. From there I worked with Master Luza when I joined the senior national team,” Kenosi said.
Kenosi said being in the national team was tiring and when she finds time she oversleeps.
“Setlalekgosi always accused me of being lazy and a heavy sleeper. Even my mother says I would not prosper in life because of my love for sleeping,” she said.
Kenosi tried to qualify for the Rio 2016 Olympics, but said the team did not have enough time to prepare. There was no Botswana boxer at the 2016 Olympics.
“That nearly demoralised me, but Setlalekgosi did not give up on me. He told me that we would work on my mistakes and correct my weakness. It has been a long road to date,” she said.
In 2017, Kenosi debuted at the Zone IV Championship where she scooped the best bout award to go with a gold medal. Regarding Tokyo 2020 preparations, Kenosi said she was impressed with how they went.
“We competed in various championships across the world such as the Thailand Open. Even if you lose, you gain a lot of experience unlike here where you fight the same boxer over and over,” she said.
Before the 2019 African Games, the team was in camp in Thailand and France. She said Thailand has many boxers and they can have four teams at a go. She said during the camp she had an opportunity to spar with different boxers with different skills.
“That made it easy for me to compete at African Games and I was a gold medallist. From there we went straight into Olympic qualifiers camp in December,” she said.
The team went for a five nations tournament in Zimbabwe where she was the best boxer. She only went home for Christmas and back in camp by January.
“We flew to France for training and it was very cold. We then went for competition in Hungary. They told us it was a test and we failed it. The loss did not derail us and we were sparring everyday,” she said.
The team flew to Cuba for training, but the challenge there was that there was no women’s team. Kenosi said she had a chance to spar with men and they did not lose patience.
“The Cubans taught us a lot. In some instances, they would tell us that we were not punching properly. Despite the language barrier, the training was useful,” Kenosi said.
Meanwhile, in Senegal, during the Olympic qualifiers, Kenosi received a bye in the first round. She was awaiting the winner between an Algerian and Madagascan fighter.
“The Algerian boxer stopped her Madagascan counterpart in the first round. That did not scare me because I could see that she was not a good boxer. I won the bout 5-0 and next on the plate was Morocco. I knew her because we fought at the African Games,” she said.
Kenosi said she knew her opponent would be desperate and I told my coach. “I did not want her to mess up my plans. Arabs get tired quickly and in the second round, I took control of the match until the end of third round. My opponent could not contain my punches. Whenever I attacked, I could see fear in her eyes. It was a moment of reckoning so I kept my cool,” she said.
The number one seeded boxer in Africa said the last bout against Tunisia was difficult because she was tired and her muscles were sore. She lost to settle for a silver medal, which guarantees her of least P75,000 from the Botswana National Sport Commission (BNSC).
Full names: Keamogetse Sadie Kenosi
Date of birth: January 17, 1997
Place of birth: Francistown
Favourite meal: Bogobe ja lerotse ka madila