KAMPALA- None of the participants at the 2016 National Open Boxing Championship has been to the Olympics before. This being an Olympics year with the African Qualifiers in Yaoundé, Cameroon a month away, everyone turned up for the open determined to impress the selectors.
However, many hitherto title favourites were disappointing at the tournament that ended last weekend at the MTN Arena-Lugogo. Below are some of the stars whose Olympic dreams were dashed at Lugogo.
Nasser Bukenya (2014, 2015 welterweight national champion)
David Ssemuju gave Bukenya such a hard time in that preliminary bout, and it was conspicuously ambiguous to declare Bukenya a winner by unanimous decision.
Like one of his national team coaches demanded, the UPDF boxer upped his game to outfox the unheralded Noah Jjagwe of Kololo Boxing Club at the quarterfinals.
In the semis, Bukenya’s A-game, of defence first, had contained arch-rival Muzamir Kakande (Kalinabiri) but when Bukenya went more aggressive in the second round (probably on the advice of his seconders), the stocky Kakande pounced with a thunderous right hook that sent the champ flat on his back.
Referee Jimmy Ssekimpi hurried to pull his gum-shield, signalling ‘end of fight’ but Bukenya resisted and got on his feet. Still, the bout was ended.
Atanus Mugerwa (bronze medallist at 2004 Aiba Africa Olympics qualifiers)
After a humiliating split decision loss to youngster Adnan Yasin in a bloody encounter, Mugerwa refused to vacate the ring and wept like a baby. He was protesting, but he knew that for all his skill and experience, he had not only disappointed himself, but also his expectant fans.
Abdu Hassan (2015 lightweight champion, 2015 Africa Confederations Boxing Championship bronze medallist)
Hassan played it cool when he lost 2-1 to Lukanga’s upstart Wasswa Ssali at the quarterfinals.
But as a defending champion, he knew he had cost UPDF valuable points in the quest to defend the Elites’ title. With his experience, he should have done better.
Nassir Bashir (2014 Glasgow Commonwealth quarter-finalist)
Since losing to Northern Ireland’s Michael Conlan at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth quarterfinals, Bashir has not rediscovered himself.
A shock knockout at the 2015 National Open preceded a winless year. This year, he beat UPDF’s Kasangaki Kakeeto at the quarters, before losing to teenage sensation, Adnan Yasin in the semis.
Batista Tabu (2015 middleweight national champion)
Tabu (UPDF), a regular fixture at the tournament for years, is famed for his power, hard body shots, with a ruthless attitude.
He was, however, subdued by youngster Yusuf Babu (Cobap) for the first two rounds. He rose in the third but a little too late.