2014 Commonwealth bronze medalist Fazil Juma Kaggwa is still nursing ambitions to box at the Olympics and he is back, working on it.
The pint-sized boxer, once the sport’s posterboy, left Uganda dejected after being left out of the squad for the 2016 African Olympic Qualifiers in Yaounde, Cameroon.
Since then, Fazil, as he is known in boxing circles, exiled himself in the Netherlands as his quest to scale the heights he promised hit a snag.
He had lost his gig in the Aiba Pro Boxing, a semipro arrangement that paid amateur boxers in dollars. His dream of joining the Wilfried Sauerland stable in Germany for professional boxing, also failed.
Nearly four years now, when many thought he is a spent force, Fazil is back, training to make the Olympics Qualifiers for Tokyo 2020.
March 2, the former light flyweight posted a video on his Facebook wall with him hitting a bag in an Amsterdam gym owned by former national boxer Adaman Daku. “I will be back soon. Stay tuned,” he captioned it.
Four days later, he posted another video showing him sparring with his fitness coach’s little brother Farouk Daku, a pro who is about 25kg heavier and six inches taller. “Come for Olympic qualifiers,” impressed, Uganda Boxing Federation president, Moses Muhangi commented.
“I’m in 100 percent,” Fazil replied. “Of course I would love to represent my country again, and as far as I know the last qualifications are in May in Paris. So it’s two-month preparations, so that means we’re looking forward to have a good training camp. I will inbox you the details and procedure we gonna work on. Thanks for the call.”
But the World Olympic Qualifiers, which had been slated for May 24, were suspended indefinitely due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Until then, the federation had selected six boxers—among those who had failed to qualify from the African event in Senegal in February—to fight once more for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics ticket. Only Musa Shadir has so far qualified.
But now that the Olympics were also pushed to 2021, Muhangi prefers starting the process afresh, if the time allows.
“It depends, if Covid-19 ends tomorrow and the qualifiers are in December, definitely we shall have fresh trials,” he told us on phone Sunday. Some coaches who contribute to the federation technical decisions, don’t buy the idea.
But Muhangi insists: “We can’t entirely trust those boxers who were in Senegal. What if they lost their focus, especially in this break when we can’t supervise them well?” That means Fazil has tough decisions to make: incurring flight costs from Amsterdam to Kampala, and the potential to fight his elder brother, Juma Miiro, himself a 2018 Commonwealth bronze medalist, nursing his own Olympic dream.
But Miiro, a flyweight, told us his brother is in a heavier weight division. In the videos, the 5ft 4 Fazil does not look anywhere close to 63kg for lightweight. So avoiding his brother’s flyweight automatically pits him in featherweight, against, among others, livewire Isaac Masembe, the 2019 African Games silver medalist.
But fresh trials need not just time. Money too. But the National Council of Sports (NCS), the chief funder, might look the other way.