KAMPALA. In June, coach Muhammad Hassan led eight boxers to Brazzaville, in Congo for the AFBC African Confederation Boxing Championship. Talking experience, the odds were against the Bombers because except light heavy Reagan Ssimbwa—who had been to Brazzaville at the 2015 All-Africa Games—the rest were continental first-timers.
Flyweight Juma Miiro, lightwelter Musa Shadir, middleweight Yusuf Babu, heavyweight Shafic Kiwanuka and Ssimbwa did not go past the quarterfinals. But welterweight Muzamir Kakande, bantamweight Geoffrey Kaketo and super heavy David Ayiti not only reached the semis, which guaranteed them a place at the World Championship in Hamburg, Germany, they also cruised to the final, a feat so elusive in our history since 2004.
In the final, Kaketo and Ayiti settled for silver, while Kakande capped a fine run—including a quarterfinal knockout of Younes Nemouchi when the Algerian was leading on the scorecards—with gold after defeating Mauritian Merven Clair.
Jolly Katongole (RIP) and Sadat Tebazalwa at the 2004 Aiba African Olympic Qualifiers in Casablanca and Gaborone respectively, had been Uganda’s last gold medallists. What a feat by the boy who was ‘politically’ deserted at the airport last year and missed the 2016 Africa Olympics trials.
Patrick Lihanda replaced Muhammad Hassan as the interim national coach. In August, Lihanda, who boxed at the 1986 World Championship in Reno, USA, led the Bombers to Hamburg, promising some good results.
But one bad report followed another in what was a totally futile campaign. First, the team led by manager Fred Kavuma, who is also the federation spokesman, missed the flight and spent 24 hours at Entebbe Airport. On reaching Hamburg, boxer Ayiti was barred from action, as a late report by the African Championship tournament doctor recommended he had to rest 90 days since he was dangerously knocked out by Cameroon’s Arsene Fosso. Everyone was caught off guard.
More misery loading.
Kaketo and African champion Kakande lost their preliminary bouts. Next thing we heard was the confiscation of the boxers’ passports for defaulting on hotel dues.
Between Kavuma’s correspondences with the National Council of Sports, the three athletes made up their mind never to return to Africa’s slum life and the ‘ungrateful’ Uganda. Three months on, despite some posing with forgotten world champion Kassim Ouma on Facebook, they are not settled yet.
NCS crack wobbly whip
This brought to eight the number boxers who have absconded national duty to try their luck in Europe, in just a year’s space.
Last year, Nasser Bukenya, Atanus Mugerwa, Fazil Juma Kaggwa, Willy Kyakonye and Sula Segawa vanished after the Eindhoven Box Cup in the Netherlands. Segawa returned late this year, after winning two professional fights.
NCS, maybe, just maybe thought it was time to call the boxing administrators to order. First, they suspended UBF at a time they were organising elections and banned Kavuma from any sports management.
The national regulator also interested the police to investigate the clandestine disappearance of the boxers. Kavuma is no saint but NCS should have known that boxing transfers have never been regulated by orderly policies like those in football, basketball, et al. Not even Interpol would bring justice.
As NCS and Kavuma traded accusations via media, it became obvious that Kavuma’s biggest sin was shouting to whoever listened that “NCS did not give us enough funds for the world trip.” That was tantamount to telling the whole village that your father no longer buys food. Luckily, tensions subsided as both sides admitted their mistakes.
Political jabs and hooks
2017 will be remembered as the most successful and the most challenging year in Kenneth Gimugu’s regime. Just when he thought the coast is clear, and ready to claim another four-year term, court slapped an injunction barring the November 11 elections.
The court order premised on the evidence that Aiba, the International Boxing Association, deemed the whole electoral process illegal. Robert Matovu, the petitioner produced an email thread, in which Aiba’s senior legal manager reminded Gimugu that the pending polls were inconsequential unless they conformed to Article 37.2 of Aiba Bylaws.
As a result, Richard Lwanga, the returning officer, who is the main respondent in the petition, was replaced by Edmond Okiror to pave way for fresh polls. Sadly, Gimugu, the incumbent, refused to pick nomination forms, claiming that any election before court settles the case is illegal. His opponents are determined to do knock him out.
Schools resume boxing
We began this recap with good news. With so we end it. Schools boxing had faded from the national calendar for donkey years. However, it returned in July this year. Despite the absence of traditional giants like Namilyango College, Busoga College, Namasagali, St Charles Lwanga, Kasasa, and others, Kampala High, Kololo High and Kololo SS, graced the three-day tournament.
Surprisingly, Bweyogerere High School, coached by youngster Herbert Kalungi, collected 37 points to take the overall trophy, upsetting Kampala High, who scored 35 points under the guidance of 1992 Olympian Davis Lusimbo.
More important, the tournament, for the first time entertained girls. Kololo High won that category, which fielded boxers only in the finals.
In general, 2017 has seen as ignominy and ecstasy. We hope for a better 2018.