National Open: how East Coast returned to top amid transition

Tuesday February 5 2019

Lukanga Boxing Club members celebra

Lukanga Boxing Club members celebrate with their trophy after coming top at the National Open. Photo by Ismail Kezaala 

By Abdul-Nasser Ssemugabi

KAMPALA- Lukanga Boxing Club swept all most all honours and hence the overall trophy at the National Boxing Open Championship but East Coast left the MTN Arena-Lugogo the happiest victors after grabbing the Elites’ trophy from Lukanga’s jaws.

It has been five years since East Coast last won the Open Championship in early 2014—before Aiba introduced the age-separation system later that year.

The Naguru-based club, known for grooming boxers from a very young age, to national and international standards, has since fallen to the very bigger clubs that poach it athletes every year.

But this year East Coast surprisingly reclaimed their position—stunning the very giants that eviscerated it in past campaigns—by gathering a massive 27 points to win the Elites’, the most coveted category.

What sweetens this victory even more is that East Coast came into Sunday’s final with 18 points, behind Lukanga on 19, with each counting on four boxers.

Do your best and leave the rest to destiny. And that’s exactly what East Coast did.

Two early victories put them in the lead on 24 points: Joshua Tukamuhebwa tamed the equally sensational Isaac Ssebuufu in a pulsating light welterweight duel before former Bombers captain Musa Shadir outboxed Ssebuufu’s big brother David Ssemuju in front of chief guest Maj Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba and a very noisy crowd.

Coach Hassan Khalil reserved special gratitude to the unheralded JB Katongole who upset flyweight title favourite Muhammad Lwanga of Katwe to up East Coast’s lead to 27 points.
You could not blame Wasswa Ssali, Lukanga’s first finalist in the ring, to lose his lightweight contest to Kibuli’s Yasin Adinan, after all the latter was the tournament’s MVP.
But when middleweight Meddie Lubega lost to Zana’s Joshua Male, it was game over for Lukanga because their remaining two boxers could only add six points to 19.

No wonder Lukanga’s only win was superheavy Solomon Geko’s defeat of East Coast’s Mike Komakech in the night’s last bout after heavyweight Emma Kyambadde succumbed to Cobap’s Yusuf Babu.

“I want to thank the federation for informing us in time which allowed us to prepare for this tournament,” said East Coast’s Hassan Khalil, who was awarded the tournament’s best coach.

“They told us three months earlier and we had friendlies in Arua, Lugazi, Masaka, Mbarara, Iganga. And the best boxers in those tours have been key to this success. We are still rebuilding and this victory means a lot to us.”

In the Elites East Coast entered nine boxers category, four reached the final.

Shadir’s return from KCCA was another motivator. “We began training Shadir when he was eight years. So he chose to return and play his last Open with us before he moves on. He brings morale into the camp, even when he was at KCCA he always trained with us and upcoming boxers look at him as their role model.”

Tukamuhebwa, who himself has been to Naguru before puberty, will likely fill Shadir’s boots, or gloves if you like.

“Joshua is good but we have to correct some mistakes. His jab wasn’t perfect and his finishing was lacking.”

The best five clubs

ELITES
East Coast 27
Lukanga 22
Police 20
KCCA 15
Cobap 14
YOUTHS
Lukanga 18
East Coast 13
Police 10
Cobap 8
Kololo 7
JUNIORS
Lukanga 20
East Coast 6
Cobap 6
Sparks 5
Zebra 3
WOMEN ELITES
Zebra 9
East Coast 5
UPDF 3
Katwe 3
WOMEN YOUTHS
University of Pain 6
A&B 3
Lukanga 3
OVERALL MEN
LUKANGA 60
East Coast 46
POLICE 30
COBAP 28
INDIVIDUAL HONOURS
BEST COACH
Hassan Khalil [East Coast]
BEST MALE ELITE BOXER
Yasin Adinan [Kibuli]
BEST MALE YOUTH BOXER
Derrick Mubiru [Cobap]
TOURNAMENT’S REVELATION
Isaac Ssebuufu [University of Pain]
BEST FEMALE ELITE BOXER
Maureen Ajambo [Zebra]
BEST FEMALE YOUTH BOXER
Teddy Nakimuli [University of Pain]

assemugabi@ug.nationmedia.com

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