The Killing Machine and the Lion’s homecoming

Thursday January 2 2020

Face of a winner. Kiwanuka defeated Dube for

Face of a winner. Kiwanuka defeated Dube for the WBFA Africa heavy weight title in November in his third professional fight. Photo by Ismail Kezaala 

By Abdul-Nasser Ssemugabi

Kenneth Odeke was the last promising Ugandan heavyweight in the professional ranks. But his rise in 2012 did not last beyond 2014 when he was last seen fighting in Belfast.

Now Shafik Kiwanuka, aka the Killing Machine, is the in-form heavyweight. Under Emmanuel Mwesigwa, the same promoter who handled Odeke, Kiwanuka has launched his professional record with two ferocious KOs and one 10-round victory.

On his debut, on March 22, at the MTN Arena-Lugogo, he knocked out Kenyan David Khamala in one round. You thought that was too fast? The lanky boxer finished off his second opponent Tyson Mbikayi of Congo, in less than a minute on July 26.

Then in just the third victory, he won the not-so-rated World Boxing Federation All-Africa Heavyweight Title after outboxing Zimbabwe’s Thamsanqa Dube at the IUEA auditorium November 29.

To enhance his brand IUEA offered Kiwanuka a scholarship to continue his studies to allow him vary his opportunities even beyond the ring. He begun with a certificate in language and will upgrade gradually.

Ssebute the regional champ
UPDF Corporal Abdul Ssebute celebrated his seventh straight professional victory by winning the East and Central Africa Boxing Union super flyweight title at the MTN Arena September 27.

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Ssebute defeated Tanzanian Muhamed Swedi, in what was a pulsating encounter between small but solid and fit bodies.

The fight had been postponed twice, and his opponents changed thrice. But, under Rome-based trainer Peter Mulindwa, Ssebute remained focused against a very hard opponent. The pint-sided fighter was also the underdog in all aspects: size, height, record. 50 rounds less, six kilograms lighter, inches shorter. But he overturned all this, and by the fifth round, he was the title favourite.

Swedi started well, though, punching with power and confidence, forcing Ssebute to slide onto the canvas in the first round, to the shock of the sparse crowds inside the Arena in the wee hours.
But by 2:23am,with both bodies emitting vapour, and convincing everyone that this was a legit main fight, Swedi surprisingly gave up at just the start of the seventh round. He pointed to his right shoulder, signaling a dislocation. No one believed him. But no one doubted Ssebute’s victory.

Post-match, he said he is tired of black opponents, that “they don’t challenge me that much.”
In October he got a taste of non-black opponents at the Military World Games in Wuhan, China. He lost the preliminary flyweight contest 3-2 to Myanmar’s Chit San Maung. He is already back in the gym, prepping for the ABU title.

UPBC suspends officials
In June, the Uganda Professional Boxing Commission suspended its technical vice president, Abbey ‘Arum’ Mugayi, for three months for presiding over a boxing match in which Kizito Ongom, aka Kasumaali, a Ugandan, fought under a pseudo Kenyan identity. UPBC president Salim Uhuru said that was risking the the commission’s reputation.

Kasumaali and Moses Golola were scheduled to fight on Heroes’ Day in Kampala but when promoter Eddie Gombya pulled out of the fight, Mugayi, under his Ugandan Sports Promotion Company, took the fight to Arua on Eid Day. He claims the organisers in Arua had already announced a Kenyan as Golola’s opponent. “That’s why they insisted on referring to Kasumaali as a Kenyan,” Mugayi said.

Kasumaali claims being bothered by being labelled Kenyan in his own country. “But even before the post-match interview someone tapped me and told me ‘you’re Kenyan speak Swahili.”

UPBC also suspended its publicist Jackson Mugisha for neglecting his duties and temporarily replaced him with Hussein Babu, the promoters’ representative. Mugayi, however, continued to appear on all boxing events. He argued: “It was my promotion company that was suspended, not me the technical vice president.

Promoter steps aside
We ended 2018 with Emmanuel Mwesigwa’s Big Strikers Promotions, now Great strikers, renewing their association with the UPBC. Even new promotion companies like A&B, Top Boy Promotion, joined the wagon, as a ray of hope that boxing can only get better, according to Uhuru.

But no one expected Step By Step, a promotion company that only entered business last year, to close shop this year.

Its managing director, Eddie Gombya, based his decision on alleged sabotage by some UPBC members.

He cited the contrasting responses by commission members to his request for the sanctioning of fights on October 6, 2019 on Wilson Street.

One letter from the UPBC technical vice president acknowledged Gombya’s request but denied approval until he submitted the full list of the fight matchmaking, which Gombya did not submit, claiming the same official has a habit of persuading fighters to turn down fights.

"Then Gombya received another letter from the commission, seemingly guiding and giving him a go-ahead. But he decided to suspend his involvement in boxing “until UPBC sorts itself.”

Uhuru called it “absurd to see a promoter quit the business on petty issues.” But he admitted incompetence in the commission that must be sorted immediately. He vowed to suspend any incompetent member without favour.

Return of the Lion
Since Sharif Bogere defected to the US during the 2007 World Boxing Championship in Chicago, he had never returned home. But in March, the former Bombers captain, who later acquired the ‘Lion’ moniker, finally visited Uganda March 5, after nearly 12 years in Las Vegas, Nevada, where he launched his pro career of 32 wins and 2 losses.

Bogere, one of the most gifted lightweight professional boxers in the world, currently under the Mayweather Promotions, did several print, TV and radio interviews, watched the whole National Schools Championship, visited his former school—Kololo High—held a workshop with boxers and coaches, tipping them on modern training technics and discipline as master keys to success. After eight months back in the States, the Lion is back home, again, for a long holiday.

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