KAMPALA- After five days of thrilling action in the preliminary National Olympic trials at Lugogo, most favourites snatched slots into the final elimination surviving stiff competition from upstarts.
African quarterfinalist Champion Businge’s Olympic dream shattered on Day One, losing a unanimous decision to Gulu’s novice Geoffrey Ochan. Ochan went on to eliminate Ronald Gayita, another big name, in the flyweight division.
Moses Kabuuka, whose earned bragging rights after knocking out 2018 Commonwealth bronze medalist Juma Miiro in the African Games trials in May, lost to archrival Muhammad Lwanga on Day Three.
But Isaac Masembe, despite having a cut on his left eye reopened in the early rounds, defended his renown as a 2019 African silver medalist to make the final in the featherweight division.
David Ssemuju, another African silver medalist, also staved off competition from Gulu’s stubborn Ronald Okello to join Yusuf Nkobeza, who knocked out Brighton Lujja in the middleweight semis on Friday.
Bombers captain Musa Shadir won all his three fights despite stiff resistance from especially Umar Nvule Thursday to book a place in the welterweight final.
Shadir also backed his East Coast teammate Joshua Tukamuhebwa who had to dig deep to tame the stubborn Innocent Amoko. Tukamuhebwa, despite his height and reach advantage, did not deploy his jab which invited more pressure from a very aggressive nothing-to-lose opponent. “We should be instead commend Joshua. It was a very tricky fight against a very awkward opponent who didn’t box but only fought. Such are fights you win without a plan. You just have to deal with the situation as is. I’m happy he won.”
Now Tukamuhebwa will sort himself with another lightweight favourite Yasin Adinan, who eliminated Isaac Ssebuufu earlier in the day.
Joshua Male did not get time to showboat with his ‘drunken master’ style against Emma Odokonyero in the light heavyweight semifinal.
He will vie for the final slot with Edris Mukiibi who had earlier outboxed Gulu’s Denis Mulindra.
In the heavyweight division Emma Kyambadde outclassed George Wejuli and will have to deal with Sweden-based Alex Bwambale who stopped veteran Badru Nyombi, aka Father Lee in the third round.
In the most eye-catching ladies’ bout, Emilly Nakalema beat Joy Namabiro in welterweight.
NCS, UOC where are you?
Uganda Boxing Federation general secretary Simon Barigo told us that the 26 finalists will enter a non-residential training camp soon after Christmas ahead of the ultimate trials on January 12 but he expects the National Council of Sports to finally join the preparation exercise.
“NCS and the Uganda Olympic Committee have been noncommittal. We are not sure of where the team will camp but we expect NCS and UOC to join us now. We are resource constrained and time-barred.”
Meanwhile, by press time, the federation had not communicated the position of the committee that reviewed the contested bouts. One of the bouts included Muhammad Lwanga’s split decision victory over JB Katongole in the semifinals and Masembe’s triumph over Jaffer Onen in the preliminaries.
The bout was stopped in the second round after Masembe suffered a cut on the eye. Nevertheless the judges preferred him.
OLYMPIC BOXING TRIALS
Lwanga vs Dixon Mubiru
Masembe vs Jonah Kyobe
Adinan vs Tukamuhebwa
Shadir vs Stanley Mugerwa