Friday February 18 2011

Nyangweso floored Idi Amin in boxing contest

BOXING GIANTS: Nyangweso addresses the UOC

BOXING GIANTS: Nyangweso addresses the UOC assembly last Saturday. Inset is Amin. PHOTO: JB SSENKUBUGE. 

By James Ssekandi


Former Ugandan President Idi Amin Dada (RIP) was a self-styled boxer. The fallen dictator was once an East African heavyweight champion. He loved the sport of boxing that he never quit even after taking over power from Milton Obote (RIP). Once in a while, he is said to have organised boxing bouts in State House and punched his opponents to pulp. But one fight that left Amin with egg on the face was against Maj. Gen. Francis Nyangweso, who succumbed to diabetes at Mulago Hospital on Tuesday.

Then a serving soldier, Nyangweso was reportedly summoned to State House on October 14, 1974 and challenged to a bout by Amin. According to one of Nyangweso’s close friends Thomas Kawere, who watched the six-round fight, Amin couldn’t deal with the challenge presented by the departed general. “Amin challenged Nyangweso to prove he still had the power and feet to last a round,” Kawere told Daily Monitor, while paying tribute to his fallen colleague.
“I kind of feared for our lives that Amin would do something bad to us.”

“Nyangweso took it for a joke but Amin punched him at the start and he developed a cut. He started bleeding,” Kawere narrated. “He realised he was in trouble before unleashing a right hook that put Amin off balance,” he reminisced. “Amin recovered with vicious body punches but in the last two rounds I think Nyangweso disregarded the fact that he was fighting the President of Uganda and summoned all his tricks. “Nyangweso unleashed a barrage of punches. The wife (Naome) had come along and I saw fear in her eyes. She looked terrified together with a number of other soldiers who witnessed the fight.”

When Daily Monitor asked a sobbing Naome about her memories of the fight, she a smiled before saying, “I wondered what Francis was thinking because he really gave Amin a beating.”
Regarded as one of Uganda’s best boxers of his generation, Nyangweso won a lightweight silver medal at the 1958 Commonwealth Games held in Cardiff, Wales.

At the 1960 Rome Olympics, Nyangweso travelled with an aim of fighting legendary Muhammed Ali. “Fighting Ali was always his dream,” Kawere recalled. Unfortunately, it never came to pass. Nyangweso lost his quarterfinal contest to New Zealand’s Marc McClure. Had he beaten the New Zealander. Nyangweso would have landed a bout against Muhammad Ali in the semi-finals. “Nyangweso cried, because his target was to fight Ali,” Kawere said. “He always believed he could defeat Ali.”

Ali went on to win light-weight gold at the Rome Games. Nyangweso went on to serve Uganda as an administrator and is notably remembered for his 30-year reign as president of the Uganda Olympic Committee. His remains will be laid to rest on February 26.