Tuesday of August 2, 2016 will forever be remembered as one of the saddest days in Ugandan boxing. That day we woke up to the sudden death of Dick Katende (pic left), the second most successful and second longest serving national coach.
In the night, the giant had collapsed in his washroom, hit his head on the concrete floor hard, bled profusely, never to rise.
Two years since his 6’ 2½ body was rested in Palabec, Kitgum, his family and friends had a candlelight memorial Saturday, not in church, but inside the East Coast Boxing Club Gym on Naguru hill. There would be no better place. This is where Coach Dick, as he was so fervently called, nurtured the current generation of boxers.
Founded by his childhood friends—twin brothers Hassan and Hussein Khalil—in 2004, this gym has diverted many slumdogs from stray acts like street fights, and drug abuse to stardom.
Now these very boys—Musa Shadir, Muhammad Kassim and others—converged to honour “our hero,” “our father,” “our master,” “our champion,” the man behind their regular appearance in news; their winning of medals.
The service lasted two hours. The attendance was small. But the gym was full and at least every set of Dick’s beneficiaries was represented.
Eng. Marvin Oloya, Dick’s son, spoke on the family’s behalf. “Dad loved you so much; I learnt this from the interactions we had,” he told the boxers. “I hope you spread that love.” Shakira Khalil’s father died when she was very young.
“Returning from Kenya, I learnt my dad’s history from Coach Dick because they were tight friends,” Shakira recalled. “Then I weighed 105kg and I was struggling with high blood pressure. Coach Dick engaged me in workouts in this gym.” She begun holding pads for the budding generation of the Fazil Juma Kaggwa, Nassir Bashir, and “Now I’m helping the girls at the national team and my weight is normal.”
Isaac ‘Zebra’ Ssenyange, duplicating Dick’s services in Bwaise represented the 90s generation. Patrick Lihanda, another from Naguru and KCC Boxing Club, is trying to fit in Dick’s giant shoes. He is grateful for a colleague “who begun as a coach player.”
The boxing federation is planning on reviving a memorial tournament [which was held last year] but even before that, wherever Katende’s soul is must be happy that his name still matters.