Saturday January 5 2013

When boxing froze out of the Olympics

Odeke (R) needed only two rounds to finish off another Kenyan Joseph Ayeko

Odeke (R) needed only two rounds to finish off another Kenyan Joseph Ayeko (R) last December in only his second professional bout.  


For the first time since 1958, boxing seized to be among the sporting disciplines the Ugandan contingent to the Olympics was to participate in due of the wrangles in the Uganda Amateur Boxing Federation (Uabf) that led to the body’s failure to send the team for qualifiers.

It was the crowning moment to years of fighting. The failure to send the team not only narrowed the chances of bringing home a medal.
Boxing has ferried more medals from the quadrennial event than any other sport here.

That denied youngsters like fast-rising heavyweight pugilist Kenneth Odeke a chance to get exposed.

Prior to the games, international boxing body, International Boxing Association (AIBA) had advised Uganda Olympic Committee (UOC) president Rogers Ddungu, a former Uabf president, to keep off the sport.

Ddungu resigned from Uabf in 2009 to take over at UOC but had been continually accused of fuelling wrangles in the boxing body. He has since been pushed out of UOC, too, by his former deputy William Blick.

The wrangles, in their fourth year now, have settled with former professional boxer, Godfrey Nyakana, the biggest thorn Ddungu ever faced, taking charge of the sport in the country.

International scene
Meanwhile, there was light at the end of the tunnel as for the first time in almost four years, the country was represented at an international event.

In December, the country sent three of the five pugilists that were paraded in front of the press for the AIBA Youth World Boxing Championships in Yerevan- Armenia.

Blick said that the sponsors had pulled out at the last minute which led to the dropping of lightweight Bob Moses Asiya and David Ochan (welterweight).

Unfortunately however, neither Emmanuel Nsubuga, Fazil Juma nor Rogers Semitala could go past their first round opponents and they flew back home barely three days after the tournament kicked off.

Prize fighters
On the professional front, US based Ugandan lightweight boxer Sharif Bogere “The Lion” stopped Mexican Sergio Rivera after just three rounds at the Scottrade Center in USA late in February. That improved his record to a staggering 14 knockouts in his 22 undefeated professional bouts.

However, he missed out on a shot at the WBA Lightweight Boxing title fight against Cuban Richard Abril after he suffered partial tear of his left Achilles tendon barely a month to the fight. The match was called off and the new date shifted to March 2, 2013.

Earlier in the year, Bogere won his first international title when he defeated Raymundo Beltran to win the vacant WBO North American Boxing Organisation (Nabo) lightweight title in May 2011.
He defended it five months later against Francisco Contreras, who he knocked out in the third round.

If Bogere ever wins a world title he will be Uganda’s sixth world champion after John ‘The Beast’ Mugabi, Ayub Kalule, Cornelius ‘Boza’ Edwards, Kassim ‘The Dream’ Ouma and Jackson “Action” Asiku.

Back in Kampala, professional boxing was active again and was received warmly by the media with fights telecast live.

However, like many things in Uganda that are always a time bomb, the Zebra Ssenyange – Haruna Banabana fight left ugly scenes as the fight ended with no winner and several spectators escaping with injuries.

2013 offers the sport a chance to regain more international recognition and certainly heal more wounds along the way.