Postponement reinvents wheel for Team Uganda’s boxing Olympics hopefuls

Sunday March 29 2020

Isaac Masembe (L), Africa’s number two

Isaac Masembe (L), Africa’s number two featherweight in Dakar, might face local challengers for a ticket to the World Qualifier in Paris. PHOTO BY ISMAIL KEZAALA 

By ABDUL-NASSER SSEMUGABI

KAMPALA-The postponement of the 2020 Olympics to 2021 could initially be an advantage to athletes in terms of more time for preps, but to national team boxers it is nearly starting all over again.

The Olympics were slated to begin July 24, but Uganda Boxing Federation president Moses Muhangi said extending the world’s biggest multi-sport event by a year not only guarantees safety of athletes against the viral coronavirus, but also allows the federation more time to reinvent the wheel to select the best for the ultimate qualifiers.

Of the 13 Ugandans who boxed at the African qualifiers in Dakar, Senegal, only captain Musa Shadir qualified for the Olympics.
But the rest were waiting for one last chance at the World Qualifiers in Paris, France in May.
This event, like the European Qualifiers in London, was rescheduled due to the escalating Covid-19 pandemic.

No sure deal
Muhangi said: “Most likely we shall organise fresh trials.
“So now it’s not a must that those who went to Senegal will be the ones selected for the qualifiers in France.”

That means that David Ssemuju, Africa’s number one middleweight during the Dakar qualifiers, and Isaac Masembe, Africa’s number two featherweight in Dakar, might face local challengers for tickets to Paris. And in the ring anything can happen.

The 2019 African silver medallists, who were Uganda’s top hopes to qualify for Tokyo, lost semi-finals and third-place box-offs in Dakar.

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“Those trials won’t benefit me in any way, I need better challengers because the level of competition [at the World Qualifiers] is going to be tougher,” Ssemuju, who was also eager to go professional after Tokyo, reacted via telephone.

“I need training and sparring with boxers abroad because local opponents won’t add much to me.” Masembe is equally stubborn. “No matter how many times the Olympics are postponed, we shall chase them and we will catch them.”

Meanwhile Emily Nakalema, who also lost the women’s welterweight semifinal in Dakar, said the postponement is such an inconvenience. “We’ve been ready but keeping fitness and focus without a competition in sight is a huge task.”

assemugabi@ug.nationmedia.com

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