Most Ugandan sportsmen are conspicuously short on confidence especially in the public eye but not Isaac ‘Zebra’ Ssenyange.
The boxers’ representative in the Uganda Professional Boxers Commission (UPBC) is as prolific with the mouth as he is with his hands.
He could pass for a seasoned public speaker as he engaged his subjects, the athletes and the commission’s executive during their annual general meeting at the UBC canteen at the weekend. Mando, as he is known to most of his compatriots, commended Moses Golola, who graced the occasion, for his self-marketing skills that have promoted kick-boxing and challenged the boxers to emulate him.
“If the loaded Mayweather (Floyd) speaks, who are you to keep quiet?” Zebra asked.
He also warned his colleagues against pursuing citizenship abroad and urged them to take the example of WBC Light Heavyweight champion Joe ‘Vegas’ Lubega, who returned to fight in Uganda after several years in the diaspora.
Lubega won the World Boxing Council International light heavyweight title after knocking out homeboy Kirt Sinnette in the fourth round in Trinidad and Tobago in 2012.
He then decided to come and defend the title from home, defeating Egypt’s Hany Atiyo at Kyadondo in June last year. He is now based in Kampala and will again put his title on the line against South African Ryno Liebenberg on February 15 in Johannesburg. “It is good to be based at home because you get a lot of support,” Zebra argued.
Zebra further advised boxers to treat the game as a profession not as a pastime. He told them to change their attitude and conduct so as to look like real professionals, which would attract sponsors and fans.
He also tackled matters concerning hygiene and dress code. “You should avoid looking like a lumpen. This is a sport, and it’s a job.”
Concerning the athletes’ welfare, he stressed the need for boxers to insist on signing fight contracts before storming the ring. “This will help solve the rows between the boxers and the promoters.”
The former captain of the national amateur team, the Bombers, also asked promoters to be honest. “Give the boxers the little that is due to them, and on time,” he said. Meanwhile, during the assembly, UPBC president Kiyingi Bbosa called for unity amongst all professional boxing stakeholders.
“We need to reunite for a better future,” he told delegates.
UPBC patron and former president Celestine Mindra, advised ring officials to attend more international seminars so as to boost their chances for high-profile engagements.