Wednesday February 7 2018

Legend Sseruwagi knocked out

Peter Grace Sseruwagi. FILE PHOTO

Peter Grace Sseruwagi. FILE PHOTO 

By Swaib Raul Kanyike


Peter Grace Sseruwagi, the most celebrated boxing coach in Ugandan is dead. Aged 87, Sseruwagi passed away yesterday morning at Nsambya Hospital. According to family members, he had been battling diabetes.
Sseruwagi started his boxing career at Kyambogo College before joining the famed Kampala Boxing Club (KBC) in 1956.
In 2016, Sseruwagi recounted to Daily Monitor how many boxers of his opponents were scared of facing him, despite his being a little younger than most.
His right hand was as steely as a sledgehammer and his raw power was his major weapon. In 1958, Sseruwagi handed Iddi Amin Dada a crunching knockout during the National Open trials held at Nakawa.
Sseruwagi was boxing for Kyambogo, while Amin was in Army Boxing Club. Tom Kawere, the national team coach at that time, confirmed this. Kawere also talked of Sseruwagi as a monster; a fighter who would aim at destroying his opponents.
Sseruwagi’s first major event was the 1958 Commonwealth Games in Cardiff, Wales, but failure to shed 10kg to fit into the Lightweight category (then measured at 30kg) ruled him out of the tournament.
During the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome, he knocked out all his opponents to the semi-final stage, but lost to an American.
Before the games, Muhammad Ali, then known as Cassius Clay, asked to have a sparring session with Sseruwagi.
“Ali had heard about Ugandan boxers. So he asked Kawere for a chance to train with us. When he shook my hands, he felt the power and asked to spar with me first. But he was a monster; I couldn’t keep up with him. Then he moved on to George Oywello and Peter Odhiambo. Angelo Dundee, Ali’s coach, praised us for helping Ali to win the Light Heavyweight gold medal,” Sseruwagi told this writer in 2016.
After the Olympics, Sseruwagi retired and took up the national team coaching reigns. In 1962, he joined Kilembe Mines Boxing Club as coach.
His first taste of success as national team coach came in the 1962 Commonwealth Games in Perth, Australia, with Oywello, Francis Nyangweso, Kesi Odong, Odhiambo and John Sentongo all winning medals.
During the 1966 Commonwealth Games in Kingston, Jamaica, Sseruwagi coached Uganda to bronze medals won by Ssentongo, Mathias Ouma and Ben Ochan.
During the inaugural World Championships in Cuba, in 1974, Sseruwagi was in the corner as Ayub Kalule and Joseph Nsubuga won Gold and Bronze respectively.
In 1992, Sseruwagi retired from coaching, after sustaining a back injury during a national team training session.
In total, he coached Ugandan boxers to 95 gold, 75 silver and 54 bronze medals at different tournaments like the All Africa Games, Commonwealth Games, Pre-Olympics, Olympics, Urafiki Games, Zone Five Boxing Championships, German Cup and Thailand’s King’s Cup.
Burial arrangements were yet to be released by press time.