Nation Media Group is in mourning.
After 71 wins and one Technical Knock Out (TKO), Richard Mwangi, the champion, our veteran cricket reporter, has bowed out of the ring.
Richie, as he was fondly known to his colleagues, lost the fight to pneumonia after a 12-month-round bout. His final bell rang at 6:15am on Tuesday.
His TKO came as a shock to the sports desk fraternity, for Richie was a resolute pugilist, one who dedicatedly covered cricket and boxing for the Daily Nation for over 20 years.
One of his favourite stories, which brought so much laughter to the board room whenever he brought it up, was a tale from when he was a desk reporter for Daily Nation, covering a major cricket match whose name he couldn’t remember.
That day as the match wore on, the skies opened and it rained heavily, causing the umpire to cancel the match as rained off. Richard hurriedly returned to the office with the his pen in the mouth, holding his head so that the words would not escape his mind, and settled down to write the story.
As any good reporter should, he reported that the match had been rained off, and that it would have to be replayed at a later date.
“The next day was tough,” said Richie, clutching at his notebook with both hands in the familiar way he did and added: “The organisers called me. They were very angry. The first question they asked was ‘Richard, did you have our lunch?’ Richard, did you enjoy our lunch?’”
For special effects he always added an Asian accent whenever he told this story, making it a funny discourse that was fresh every time he told a young reporter.
“Richard was one of the gentlest souls you would ever come across. For the 27 years I’ve known him as a colleague in sports journalism, I never saw or heard of him get into any conflict with anyone. He would debate on sporting issues, especially boxing and cricket, from an informed point of view, and was always ready to help upcoming journalists follow and report cricket competently. My condolences to his family and friends. May his soul rest in eternal peace,” said Elias Makori, NMG Sports Editor.
Those who knew him will describe him as a boxing writer, but those who knew him well will say he was a fighter. In his early days, he was a pugilist of the Welterweight division, and nothing brought as much laughter in his eyes as when he spoke about his boxing exploits of his youth.
And he was a fighter in his last days, as he battled pneumonia bravely for 12 months, coming to work sometimes when it was easier to stay at home. If there was a major cricket match in Nairobi, Richie would be there to enjoy it and to cover it.
He was committed to uplifting the standards of cricket. And boxing. Towards the end of his life, he took issue with the way boxing was being managed, especially since it has been riddled with wrangles for several years.
But cricket? That he loved. He could stay patiently watching a game with Asian enthusiasts at Gymkhana all day on Saturday, then speak animatedly at the weekly board meetings explaining what he saw. He will be missed.
He was passionate about restoring Kenya’s pride in cricket, and had a gift of innovative thinking, a visionary spirit, and the tenacious patience required to successfully lead meaningful reform.
Tributes poured in for the fallen scribe, and Nation Media Group sports desk led by saying the following about him:
“Calm. Mature. Energetic. It's sad the Boxing and Cricket guru is no more. Quiet, but entertaining whenever need be, Richard always stressed the need for me to understand a sport in detail before covering it. He taught me boxing lingual. That persistent and uncomfortable signature cough marked his last days on earth. RIP champ!” said David Kwalimwa, a football writer.
“A fine gentleman, who was dedicated and passionate about what he did. The fact that he still loved writing about his favourite sports – boxing and cricket at his age, just shows how much he valued the trade. His great insights shall be missed,” said Brian Yonga, online sub editor at the sports desk.
“He was a senior colleague in the industry who he taught me a lot in cricket and boxing. We talked days before he died and he sounded strong even when his health was failing him. I will greatly miss his wise counsel,” said James Mwamba, Chief sub editor, Sports desk.
“He knew the technical terms for boxing and cricket, and he would always tell you how to make the story interesting,” said Daily Nation sports writer Ayumba Ayodi.
“Richard was a gentleman with a hearty laugh who minded his business in the newsroom. He had a deep passion for cricket and deeper love for the Kenyan game which he reported with feelings to a fault. He always pushed to see his stories published and was genuinely interested in the welfare of the sports people he covered,” said Sports Sub Editor Charles Nyende.
"I wonder on what days they play cricket in heaven. But I'm certain Richard will attend the next game," wrote Cellestine Olilo.