Key questions from the National Olympic trials

Wednesday January 8 2020

It was another routine work out for Sse

It was another routine work out for Ssemujju (red) against Yusuf Nkobeza. PHOTO BY JOHN BATANUDDE 

By ABDUL-NASSER SSEMUGABI

KAMPALA- After the ultimate National Olympic trials at Lugogo, Sunday, the eight men and five women who will vie for the 22 Olympic slots at the African qualifiers in Dakar, Senegal are known. As the boxing federation prepares the team for the decisive tournament next month, Daily Monitor has some key questions.

Can Ssemujju maintain his streak?
David Ssemujju was featured by the Olympic Channel alongside China’s Li Qian, Ukraine’s Oleksandr Khyzhniak and Cuba’s light-heavyweight Olympic champion Julio de la Cruz among the boxers to watch in the continental Olympic qualifiers.

The December 6 article hypes Ssemuju as a man on a mission to restore Uganda’s boxing glory. Honestly, the middleweight proved it when he outboxed Yusuf Nkobeza at the final trials Sunday.

Both fighters threw and landed a torrent of quality punches, leaving everyone on the edge of their seats.
Both left the ring heads high after a split decision in Ssemuju’s favour. He had just passed the sternest of tests since winning a silver medal at the 2019 African Games.

Shall he maintain this red-hot form to accomplish his Olympic dream?

Shadir’s last chance?
Bombers captain Musa Shadir is unbeatable in country at Lugogo. But he has unfinished business. He has flopped on his three international assignments: the 2017 African Boxing Championship, 2018 Commonwealth Games, the 2019 African Games. Many think it’s partly because he does not get enough tests at home—his easy defeat of Stanley Mugerwa on Sunday being the latest example. Is Dakar his last chance to shut ‘the haters’ up?

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End of Baleke’s era?
It was a boring match, with more clinching, hugging and lunging than boxing, except a handful of quality punches. The split decision deservedly went in the favour of the challenger Doreen Nassali.

There’s little concern whether she will improve in the next one month for the Dakar challenge. But the bigger question: does Hellen Baleke, the lucky African Games bronze medalist, still have something in the tank? She looked very unfit, with a heavy chest and tummy. She lacked the speed and urge and at nearly 33, age is not her ally either. Isn’t this the end of her era?

When shall Lwanga ever don national colours?
Muhammad Lwanga has been in amateur boxing since his early teens in 2014. He has experience from official and ‘suicide’ fights, from light flyweight to flyweight. He has power, skill and passion. But he has a jinx of losing the most important bouts. It’s the reason he has never been a national champion or ever represented the nation. On Sunday, he wasted yet another golden chance losing his Olympic eliminator to the unheralded Disan Mubiru. He took long to start, and lost the first round. He rose to decisively win the second, but when he conceded a knockdown in the third, he beat the count but didn’t do more to convince the judges.

Can the fans pay more?
For nearly the two years Moses Muhangi has been the head of the Uganda Boxing Federation, events have been free of charge. This has helped in pulling the fans back to Lugogo. But Muhangi declared the ‘tax holiday’ is over and revelers had to pay Shs5,000 or Shs10,000 to watch the National Olympic Trials.
They filled the MTN Arena and were lively. Shall they maintain the spirit or it was a one-off?

THE VICTORIOUS BOMBERS SQUAD FOR DAKAR
THE MEN
Dissan Mubiru (52kg), Isaac Masembe (57kg), Yasin Adinan (63kg)
Musa Shadir (69kg), David Ssemuju (75kg), Joshua Male (81kg)
Alex Bwambale (91kg), Solomon Geko (+91kg)
THE LADIES
Catherine Nanziri (51kg), Emilly Nakalema (69kg),
Suzan Akello (57kg), Rebecca Amongin (60kg), Doreen Nassali (75kg)

assemugabi@ug.nationmedia.com

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