Ugandan boxing still longing for proverbial eighth round

Sunday February 4 2018

Rough diamonds. Geoffrey Kakeeto (L) and

Rough diamonds. Geoffrey Kakeeto (L) and Muzamir ‘King Kong’ Katende during a sparring session at Lugogo before the African Amateur Boxing Championship in Congo Brazzaville last year. Kakande won gold whereas Kakeeto snapped up silver at the meet but both went on to disappear at the World Boxing Championship in Hamburg, Germany last year. PHOTO BY ISMAIL KEZAALA 

By Robert Madoi

You will forgive those that strongly believe that Ugandan claims of boxing greatness are self-deceiving.
A lukewarm present continues to find itself cosseted by a rich past. If this was an attempt at rope-a-dope tactics, then last year was the eighth round that produced a stunning left hook and leading right combo.
Or at least it looked like it.

After backing against the ropes and weathering a brutal onslaught, Ugandan boxing scored a dramatic victory when it walked away with three medals at the African Amateur Boxing Championships. The championships took place in a country that shares a name, border and culture with where ‘The Rumble in the Jungle’ was held.

The gold medal Muzamir ‘King Kong’ Kakande left Congo-Brazzaville with was Uganda’s first since 2004. What made it all the more remarkable was that Kakande trailed an Algerian adversary on the scorecard in the quarterfinals before that trusted right cross and left hook combo helped him delivered a sudden knockout.

But probably to offer a stark reminder of how addictive it is to be on the proverbial ropes, Kakande along with David Ayiti and Geoffrey Kakeeto (both silver medallists at the 2017 African Boxing Championships) went AWOL in Germany. But not after they had made up the numbers at the World Boxing Championships in Hamburg.

With this in mind, there is an overbearing temptation to conclude that 2017 was to Ugandan amateur boxing what the fifth round of The Rumble in the Jungle was to Muhammad Ali. Despite being staggered by a flurry of Ali combinations near the end of the fifth, George Foreman lived to die another round.

So, could 2018 be that eighth round when Ugandan boxing - like Ali - comes out of ‘retirement’ to cut its Big George (Goliath if you like) to pieces?
New Uganda Amateur Boxing Federation (UABF) boss Moses Muhangi wants us to believe that the watershed moment is upon us.

Addressing the media for the first time since winning a disputed poll, Muhangi largely steered clear of divisive rhetoric. He knew that talking about his nemesis Kenneth Gimugu would seem only to increase the rancour. And rightly so.

Instead, Muhangi talked up how working in UABF’s brick-and-mortar office - generously refurbished by him - will prove to be productive. It will provide a tangible port of call as the scope of the sport is widened.
He also made known his intentions of not losing the footrace when it comes to grooming coaches, referees and judges.

But if 2018 is to clothe itself in robes of gold (Muhammad Ali style), a strong performance at the Commonwealth Games in Australia will be imperative.
Isaac ‘Zebra’ Ssenyange is the man who has been tasked with the duty of making a statement. It will take much more than words to win over the Doubting Thomases. They have seen many fifth rounds before. The wait for the eighth continues.