Saturday April 5 2014

Kickboxing owes its popularity to Golola

 Golola (R) corners Hungarian Istvan Betya last

Golola (R) corners Hungarian Istvan Betya last year. PHOTO BY ISMAIL KEZAALA 

By Abdu Wasike

What would kickboxing in Uganda be without Moses Golola? No wonder he christened himself Moses Golola Of Uganda; for the two go in tandem.
Golola has changed the game of kickboxing completely ever since he went pro in 2007.

His flamboyant motor-mouth had somehow sucked people into following the sport they hardly knew much about before watching him in the ring.
Previously little known, it is because of Golola’s charisma and way with words that kickboxing got serious media attention like never before. Kickboxing’s stock went through the roof.

The year 2011 will forever be remembered as one kickboxing captured the country’s imagination.

Golola, like many disadvantaged youths had very little opportunity growing up. After training as a boxer for a few years he turned to Taekwondo, but felt his true talent laid elsewhere. Then he discovered kickboxing and he has never looked back. From his early days at the YMCA gym in Wandegeya, Golola entered the Club Championships after just six months training where he beat most of his opponents by knockout.
He was quickly elected as Uganda’s team Captain and fought for the East African title in Nairobi soon afterwards, which he won. From that point Golola became unbeatable within East Africa.

He had as many professional fights under his belt as he could but the sport was not well known or well promoted in Uganda at the time. Golola desperately wanted to fight abroad but lacked of funding.

By this time Golola was well known throughout East Africa having went through the ranks to take the region’s kickboxing title.
Then something interesting thing happened. Clips of his fights began to appear on YouTube originating in Malaysia. It appeared that a man named Jonah Kagimba in Malaysia was picking up clips of Golola fighting from NTV and posting them on youtube.
Before long Golola was becoming well known throughout the world of kickboxing from the clips that were being viewed of him online.
In an interview with SCORE in April last year, Hassan Sekirime, the president of the Uganda Kickboxing Federation (UKF), said that kickboxing was being practiced in the country way back but mostly took root in 1993.
By then Madmike Mpyanga was the president of the federation and the game was at the amateur level.
Some of the first men to play the sport at national level were Burunana Ssemwogerere, John Mukunde, Ronald Mugula, Shaban Andama, Richard Ddamulira, Abu Kikenwa, Erick Onen, Titus Tugume and Golola.

The Kanyomozi influence
To many, Golola’s first ever international fight on the local scene against South Sudan’s Abdul Qadir Rahim on June 1, 2011 was their introduction to kickboxing.

With the help of his then promoter Patrick Kanyomozi, a known sports scribe on Kfm radio and host of NTV Sports Bar, Golola managed to have his fight staged in Uganda under Kweli Productions.

Kanyomozi told this newspaper that kickboxing is where it is because of Golola.
“Golola has single-handedly taken kickboxing to where it is right now,” said Kanyomozi, adding “That is why Ronald Mugula’s maiden fight had to be promoted around a man (Hungarian Andres Nagy - RIP) that had beaten Golola, every other kickboxer now has had to build his career around Golola.”

“When l came up with the idea of organising the first Golola fight, l didn’t even know that there was a kickboxing federation in the country. “My first meeting with Ssekirime, he clearly couldn’t understand where I got the courage from to believe that a small sport like kickboxing would attract the numbers I was talking about. The Sport had been around for so many years but it was not until that first fight that Ugandans got wind of it.”

However, Kanyomozi adds that even Golola could not realise that he had the potential to take the sport himself to greater heights, he needed someone to open his eyes and make him realise the treasure that he had within himself. That was the role he played but credits him for making the sport scale the heights.”

What the federation says…
Eddie Gombya, the Uganda Kickboxing Federation (UKF) general secretary, agrees that the Golola factor has surely given them rhythm to take the sport to another level.

“The game has been there before but we credit Golola for talking and making people love the sport that wasn’t known that much in the country,” said Gombya.
“For sure he loves the sport and indeed did a good job to market it. As the federation, we give him 55% because he has influenced most of other fighters the likes of Ronald Mugula, Titus Tugume, and Umar Semata among others to bounce or come up on the scene.”

Tugume and Semata’s take
Thailand-based Ugandan kickboxer Umar Semata, is one of the few Ugandans, who have openly appreciated Golola’s impact.

“I have to thank Golola for making this sport popular,” Semata, currently preparing for the world intercontinental welterweight fight on April 21 against Egyptian Abdallah Hessen, told SCORE.

“Back in the day, we used to fight and no one seemed to care but l really salute him (Golola) for a job well done.”

Tugume, who was knocked out by Golola in just one minute and two seconds in August, agrees that the so called self-styled ‘No Joking Subject’ has surely lifted the sport.

“Golola has changed the sport through talking but not in action proper. To me he isn’t a good fighter but he has done a good job to market the game and l credit him for uplifting it.”

Turning point
After Golola’s first fight at Hotel Africana that pulled arguably the biggest crowd, everything changed for the sport since then.

The federation that was in place wasn’t known by then but it was through his first bout that people even got to know that kickboxing had an executive in place.
Most fighters along the way started showing up that people didn’t know about the likes of Malik Kaliisa, John Tumukunde, and Sharif Bukenya among others.

Golola’s second fight against Hungarian Nagy on December 9, 2011 proved to be one of the best fights staged in Uganda. The fight was telecast live on NTV.

Since then, other fighters have come up with bouts at different venues like Freedom City, MTN-Arena Lugogo, Kyadondo Rugby Ground and Nateete but the talk remains on the epic crowd at Africana.

The controversies Golola has endured in some of his fights – ranging from legitimate criticism to vitriol – have not created any self-doubt or affected his commitment.

Where naysayers see stubbornness, others see resolve.
Golola has become as synonymous with kickboxing as Steve Jobs was with Apple.

“What happened is that I slided in to the corner and my knee got a disco-location, so by the time I was standing the knee was turning up. Instead of getting a serious knock out I decided to stop the fight. It’s just a disco-location not a knock out.”

“Am the only kickboxing cock in Uganda and l don’t want to hear another cock crowing. I will hit that German Shepherd (referring to Mugula) on the chin and put him to sleep.”

“I’m a one-man army and am the fighter as well as the commander but for Tugume he has to wait for orders. So l had to take him out quickly.”

“You know a hyena dreams of taking the lions teeth but am telling you, Tugume will be dead at the end of the fight. I will beat him and he will beg for mercy. He will forget his phone number and start calling Golola as his phone number.”