2014 Year in Review – Commonwealth Medals Save Blushes of Boxing

Mike Sekabembe’s fairytale performance to win bronze at the Commonwealth Games tops Ugandan boxing highlights in 2014.

Returning to international competitions for the first time in six years because of internal administrative wrangles, Ugandan boxers had the burden of proving their worth and disregard charges that the country’s legacy in the sport was at stake.

But the Super heavyweight and his Bombers’ teammate Fazil Juma Kaggwa (light flyweight) stood up for Ugandan boxing as they punched their way to a bronze medal apiece at the 20th Commonwealth Games staged from July 23 and August 3 in Glasgow, Scotland.

Return of the open:

Firstly, the newly voted in Uganda Boxing Federation (UBF) executive led by Kenneth Gimugu, presided over a successful organization of the National Open championship in February. The tournament culminated in the selection of a formidable national team, which ably represented the nation.

The Open Championship, won by Naguru-based East Coast Boxing Club, was the first major local calendar event after a long spell but pugilists exhibited great skills and sharpness in the ring against the odds.

After three trial events, five pugilists Rogers Ssemitala (flyweight), Nasir Bashir (bantamweight), Solomon Geko (light heavyweight), Fazil Juma Kaggwa (light flyweight) and super heavyweight Mike Sekabembe, made to it to the Bombers’ final squad for the Games.

UBF acted wisely by recalling Dick Katende to the national team ranks after eight years in the wilderness, and the veteran coach didn’t disappoint. His immense experienced in motivating pugilists paid off as proved by Sekabembe and Kaggwa’s two bronze medals.

In Glasgow, all focus and Uganda’s medal hopes turned onto the five boxers. Ssemitala and Geko lost to Sri Lanka’s Anurudha Rathnayake and Yakita Aska of Antigua and Barbuda respectively in the round of 16 while Bashir suffered defeat at the hands of Michael Conlan (Northern Ireland) in the quarterfinal stage. While Sekabembe and Kaggwa punched their way into semifinal medal bracket, assuring the nation of bronze.

Nineteen-year-old Kaggwa dispatched Zambian Bwalya Lumbwe and Ghana’s Tetteh Sulemanu to storm the semis where he unfortunately lost to Northern Ireland’s Paddy Barnes, the eventual light flyweight Commonwealth champion.

However, Sekabembe’s displays in which he overwhelmed Barbados’ Anderson Emmanuel and Ghanain Haruna Osumanu proved both exciting and memorable. Unfortunately, the 34-year-old army (UPDF) boxer failed the pre-fight mandatory medical test to face Englishman Joseph Joyce in the semifinals. Joyce went on to become the Commonwealth super heavyweight champion as Sekabembe settled for bronze.

By all means, this was an overall stellar performance from the pugilists who were just ‘shedding off rust’ from several years of inactivity. It also creates enthusiasm among the local sporting fraternity ahead of the 2015 All Africa Games and respective qualification campaign for 2016 Olympics.

In the same season, East Coast BC has emerged as the new powerhouse in local boxing as the Naguru- based club the major calendar events this year. Apart from the Open title, East Coast also won the Intermediates crown in May. They beat off stiff challenge from traditional giants including KBC, UPDF, Lukanga and Scorpions, among others.

Katende upgrade:

In other highlights out of the ring, UBF managed to organize two refresher workshops for coaches, referees and judges. In September, national coach Dick Katende, who lacked qualification and was barred from giving instructions at the ringside in Glasgow, attended the world sanctioned Aiba Grade III course in Sicily, Italy.

Also to note, three female boxers competed for the first time in the Aiba Women’s World Boxing Championships held on Jeju Island in South Korea last month but their performance is nothing to write home about.

Lightweight Diana Tulyanabo, Hellen Baleke (middleweight) and Diana Atwine (welterweight) turned into mere tourists as they all miserably lost in their first round bouts without putting up any fight.

Bogere continues to fly Ugandan flag

In professional boxing, US-based Sharif ‘The Lion’ Bogere made a solid comeback to winning ways, scoring three victories in three bouts this year.

After losing to Richar Abril in a WBA title fight last year, Bogere desperately needed to fight his way back to the top rankings and when chances were availed in 2014, he took them gracefully as he defeated Arturo Urena, Miguel Zamudio and Fernando Garcia in April, June and October respectively.

With back-to-back wins over such proven Mexican opponents, Bogere’s rating has improved and is accordingly being lined up for a title shot again. 2015 could be his year to rule the lightweight division.

Locally, there has less or no serious activity in the ring for home based fighters. Both fight promoters and sport’s ruling body, UPBC, have been inexplicably quiet throughout the year as boxers lacked activity in the ring.

Fare thee well:

On a sad note, celebrated referee and judge, Saidi Tebazalwa, passed on in August. Tebazalwa was dad of Olympians, Abdul and Sadat Tebazalwa, who represented the country at the 2000 and 2004 Olympics in Sydney and Athens respectively.

A former national team boxer in the 1970s, Tebazalwa is also remembered for having mentored Ayub Kalule, Uganda’s legendary former WBA light middleweight champion.

Source : The Observer

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