Ronald Serugo and Kennedy Katende, Uganda’s only boxers at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, have urged their ‘little brothers and sisters’ in Dakar, Senegal to be mentally and tactically ready in their pursuit of Olympic tickets.
Serugo and Katende, both born in Uganda, based in Sweden, have reliable experience in African boxing, the basis of their analysis.
“What I remember about African boxing, every second counts, and in every second a winner can be determined by one punch or one point ahead,” Serugo, a bronze medalist at the 2011 African Games in Maputo.
Thirteen Bombers [five women] are fighting for the 33 Olypmic slots available for Africa but none of them have ever been in such a tournament.
“Being part of the qualifiers might sound big but the one who triumphs is the one who focuses 100 percent on the opponent in front of him [or her] and imagine him or herself already in Olympics.”
In Beijing 2008, Serrugo was Uganda’s only boxer while Katende represented Sweden. In 2015, Katende returned home to represent Uganda at the African Games in Congo-Brazzaville and the 2016 African Olympic qualifiers in Yaoundé, Cameroon, winning bronze in both.
“African boxing is a lot of power and they have good stamina. But not as technical. My advice would be employing the right tactics: hands up all time, punch and move. Always stay ready; the first rounds are very important and the last 10 seconds.”
Fighting for life
In 2016, Uganda sent 10 boxers to the Olympic Qualifiers in Yaoundé, but only Serugo and Katende qualified for the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Both qualified after the third-place box-off having lost semifinals.
But this time round, the third-best could be the losing semifinalist, whose conqueror wins gold in the final.
“That system is unfair because that boxer would be qualifying by luck,” Serugo assesses. “In most cases if they were box off, the results would be different. The feeling that it’s your last chance makes the fight even more interesting. It’s a like fight- for-life match.”
Even under the new system, Serugo would have qualified because his conqueror took gold over Algeria’s Mohamed Flissi in the flyweight final. Likewise Katende’s conqueror Abdelhafid Benchabla of Algeria, triumphed in the light heavyweight final.
“Well, for me it’s always the box-off that’s fair because if you box the best boxer then you’re almost sure he will qualify and pull you up,” Katende insists.
Uganda’s team to Dakar
Men: Dissan Mubiru (Zebra), Isaac Masembe
(Cobap), Yasin Adinan (Kibuli-Mutajazi), Musa
Shadir Bwogi (East Coast), David Ssemuju
(KCCA), Joshua Male (Zana), Alex Bwambale
(Tensta Boxing Club, Sweden), Solomon Geko
Women: Catherine Nanziri (A&B), Suzan
Akello (UPDF), Rebecca Amongin (Police),
Emilly Nakalema (Katwe) and Doreen Nassali
Coaches: Patrick Lihanda, Tonny Ssekabira,
Twaib Mayanja and Dan Kasole.