Renowned boxing coach Peter Grace Sseruwagi was on Friday laid to rest in the island outpost of Ssese. Although there was no collective outpouring of emotion from Ugandans à la Mowzey Radio (pockets of them lumbered into Lugogo Arena to view his remains on Thursday), ascribing legendary status to Sseruwagi is but an act of sheer folly.
The term legends keeps being thrown around too loosely these days, but Sseruwagi is thoroughly deserving of the descriptor. Even for the number crunchers, Sseruwagi’s statistics as a boxing coach must make for an arrestingly strange data set.
The sheer weight of numbers captured by a remarkable medal count of his protégés conveys a hallucinatory strangeness. What with the 95 gold, 75 silver and 54 bronze medals his steady if methodical coaching approach yielded between 1962 and 1992!
The anecdotes Sseruwagi provided in the ring as an active boxer were also equally compelled. Not many boxers counted knocking out Idi Amin — a distinguished heavyweight in his own right — or sparring with Muhammad Ali as part of their feats. Sseruwagi did just that thanks in no small part to his devastating punching power.
It was, however, his coaching feats that stood out. Sseruwagi’s passing after battling diabetes for a protracted period comes at a time when Ugandan boxing is grappling with the crucial aspect of coaching.
The sport has struggled to produce coaches worth the while in recent times. The tragic death of Dick Katende in 2016 simply added salt to the metaphorical wound.
The new Uganda Boxing Federation executive has promised not to pay lip service to training coaches. It is just as well for this is the only way homage can be paid to Sseruwagi.