After seven years of wrangling, Uganda Boxing Federation (UBF), led by Kenneth Gimugu emerged the new administrators of amateur boxing since September 2013.
The landmark in their first year was sending the Bombers, Uganda’s national boxing team back into the Commonwealth Games, having missed out on the 2010 edition in Delhi.
About 60 boxers entered national trials and five of them represented Uganda at the Games in Glasgow, Scotland July 23 to August 03. Super heavy weight Michael Ssekabembe and Fazil Juma Kaggwa (East Coast) won bronze. Kaggwa, 19, fell to Northern Ireland’s twice Olympic bronze winner Paddy Barnes in the semis.
Ssekabembe was, however, “robbed” of a chance in the final when he was controversially declared unfit to face England’s Joyce Joseph in the semis. The UPDF boxer had impressed in his previous bouts, especially against Ghanaian Haruna Osumanu, but he settled for bronze as Joyce walked over to the final.
Bantam weight Nasir Bashir was superb before narrowly losing his quarterfinal clash against Northern Ireland’s Michael Conlan
Team captain, and arguably Uganda’s top medal prospect flyweight Rogers Ssemitala and light heavy Solomon Geko lost their opening bouts.
Celebrating a fairly triumphal return was, nevertheless, eclipsed by matters ringside. In Glasgow, the Bombers relied on charitable services of Kenyan and Nigerian coaches.
This after Coach Dick Katende was found lacking the requisite AIBA Star Three credentials and thus could not access the ringside. Did it deter the team performances?
“Definitely, the boys really needed me, especially, that all of them were new at such a stage,” the coach later told Daily Monitor.
To escape further ignominy, Katende was to later attend the AIBA refresher course in September, though his trip to Siracusa Italy was itself another melodrama. Precisely, he nearly missed it due to lack of funds. Eleventh hour support from the National Council for Sports was like manna to Israelites.
Resurrecting the women’s game.
For the first time Uganda sent a female boxing team to a global event. Women’s boxing, ironically, suffered a stupor since Irene Ssemakula and Mariam Nalukwago (RIP) won Gold in the inaugural Africa Women Championships in Cairo Egypt in 2001.
The She Bombers’ international debut was, however, a deplorable venture.
At the eighth edition of AIBA Women’s World Championships from November 16 to 25, Lightweight Diana Atwiine (UPDF) and Light fly Mourine Adhiambo conceded technical knockouts in their opening bouts middleweight Hellen Baleke (captain) only stood 11 seconds against 19-year old US sensation Claressa Shields. Light heavy Diana Turyanabo was superb, albeit, controversially losing 3-0 to another American Heidi Henriksen.
But you will pardon the ladies.
They had only trained for four weeks, under below average conditions. They could commute to Lugogo Indoor Stadium every day and poorly fed. The coach struggled to put them back into shape after months of inactivity.
Yet in Jeju, they faced continental, world and Olympic boxers with immense experience. With hardly any preparatory tournaments and no sparring partners, they only needed a miracle. Any lessons learnt? It remains to be seen.
Due to financial inadequacy, youth Bombers missed the Africa Youth Championships in Botswana in May which doubled as a qualifier to the Youth Olympics in Nanjing, China in August. Several inter-club events were either rescheduled or skipped.
Challenges, notwithstanding, the Intermediates tournament took place at Lugogo in January. Several action-hungry boxers and graduates of the Novices competed and the best of which progressed to the National Opens.
In all competitions, upstarts East Coast upstaged traditional clubs like UPDF, Kampala Boxing Club winning the Novices—held last December—, sharing the spoils with Police in the Intermediates before emerging controversial victors of the Opens.
The shambolic Lugogo Boxing Gym got a facelift. It was refurbished to a minimum standards level. Now called the Lugogo Fitness Centre, it is open to all sportsmen and outsiders.
Later in the year, we did a side survey alongside UBF’s into the clubs. The boxing ‘factories’ are in a conspicuously appalling state. Whose obligation is it to uplift the clubs’ standards? Heaven knows.
Boza, Bogere shine
A Kampala Boxing Club (KBC) graduate, now a Nevada resident, Cornelius Boza Edwards, entered the Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame in August. Flanked by other inductees like Evander Holyfield, Mike Tyson, Roberto Duran, George Foreman, et al, at the Cohiba Ball Room, the Ugandan was praised by Floyd Mayweather Jr.
“Edwards is a friend, he’s a mentor, and he was a legend. He’s been a part of my success for 18 years as a professional. And without him I don’t know where my career would be.”
Following the bloody loss to Cuban Richard Abril last year, lightweight Sharif Bogere has resurrected from a year-long Achilles tendon injury with a trilogy of vital victories over Mexican opponents which put him, according to trainer Ken Adams, just a few wins away to the top.
“The Lion” started with an emphatic triumph over Arturo Urena before knocking out Miguel Zamudio in June. But it was the ferocious downing of Fernando Garcia in October in Massachusetts which took everybody’s fancy.
Back home, Edward Kakembo aka Messiah, won the first title of 2014 after edging Raymond Ssentongo in a tightly contested super bantam brawl at Lugogo MTN Arena February 28.
The same night saw heavyweight Kenneth Odeke return to the ring since he was battered by Iranian Abbas Nassab last year. A fifth-round knockout summed up a so-so victory over Hudson Muhumuza. Odeke won the championship. Late March, Hamza Ssempewo beat Kidega Dragon to clinch the National Welterweight title at Nateete Dance Flo.
Just a bad year or the beginning of the end of 2012 African Boxing Union light heavy weight champion Joe ‘Vegas’ Lubega?
It all begun with a shock first-round knockout before relinquishing his WBC-I title to South African Ryno Liebenberg at the Emperor’s Palace, Johannesburg in March.
He has since lost to not-so-known opponents, especially in Eastern Europe.
A tribute to the fallen Mzee Saidi Tebazalwa and Barbara Nakalema. Tebazalwa, one of the best light flyweights of the ‘70s, served for ages as a referees’ judge, ring official and coach. He fathered boxing brothers Sadat and Abdul Tebazalwa.
Before succumbing to cancer of the throat June 15, he was treasurer of Uganda Professional Boxing Commission.
Nakalema, 22, a Mengo Social Center boxer died of an unclear illness June 26. May their souls rest eternally in peace.
2014 BOXING AT A GLANCE
Fazil Juma Kaggwa (bronze)
Michael Ssekabembe (bronze)
Diana Atwiine (Featherweight, UPDF)
Mourine Adhiambo (Light fly, Rhino B.C)
Hellen Baleke (Middleweight, Rhino B.C)
Diana Turyanabo (Light heavy, Rhino B.C)
October 30: Bogere bt. Fernando Garcia (KO 5th Round)
June 21: Bogere bt.Miguel Zamudio (RTD in 3rd Round)
April 26: Bogere bt.Arturo Urena (TKO in 6th Round)
Record: 27(18 KOs)-1-0
February 28, Kakembo bt Ssentongo (UD after 12 Rounds)
February 28, Odeke bt Muhumuza (KO 5th Round)
March 29, Ssempewo bt Kidega (UD after 10 Rounds)
Lubega lost to:
South African Ryno Liebenberg (KO)
Russian Dimitry Sukhotsky (UD)
Latvian Mairis Briedis (TKO 9th Round)
Russian Egor Mekhontsev (UD)
Rest In Peace:
Saidi Tebazalwa (Died June 15)
Barbara Nakalema (Died June 26)
SOURCE: Daily Monitor