Uhuru’s first year promises big things for pro boxing

Thursday December 6 2018

UPBC president Salim Uhuru (2nd right) a

UPBC president Salim Uhuru (2nd right) addressing the media at Mukwano Mall, Kampala recently. Photo by John Batanudde 


KAMPALA. Just one year is too short to assess the success of a regime designated for four years. But Salim Uhuru’s first nine months as president of the Uganda Professional Boxing Commission promise a bright future.

Ring officials seminar
After the general assembly at Mt Zion Hotel in Kampala, March 17, 2018, where Uhuru and his executive were just announced unopposed, his first business was the three-day ring officials’ seminar, which he attended with his exec in Nairobi.
Besides refreshing their fight handling skills, the seminar has had instant benefits for Ugandan officials, who have since been hired to officiate fights in the region.
Jackson Mugwanya, who is also the UPBC general secretary, has handled fights in Tanzania, Simon Mukisa Katongole, the administrative vice-president, has officiated in Kenya, while Abbey Mugayi, the technical vice-president, has been matchmaker in Kenya. Abdu Kaddu Sabata and anothers of this calibre, are waiting for similar opportunities.

ABU Convention
Uganda had hosted the Africa Boxing Union convention in 2005 under Celestine Mindra’s presidency. But when we got a second chance, under Bbosa Kiyingi’s administration in 2015, the ABU cancelled it two weeks to the D-day.
Uhuru said it was in the ring officials’ workshop in which Uganda lobbied afresh to host the event, and it finally happened at Hotel Africana.
There were challenges, though.
That was the time the state was the spotlight after the chaos that surrounded the Arua by elections.
“The ABU wanted to cancel the event because delegates were worried about their safety, but the CDF Gen. [David] Muhoozi gave us the full security and the delegates from 14 countries got VIP treatment throughout,” Uhuru said. “I thank government for enabling that to happen.”
UPBC expected sponsors but they pulled out, but the event happened anyway.
In that meet, Uhuru was appointed on the ABU board. This, he says, is an opportunity to find partnerships to fix the small but essential needs of boxing, first. “I must ensure that very soon UPBC gets a ring of our own.”
He added that it is small money [about $5000 or Shs18.6m] which should not hold boxing to ransom. Currently, there is only one ring that serves all boxing and kickboxing events in Uganda, and because it is old and overworked, sometimes it collapses during action time.
Uhuru says the convention also benefited Uganda in terms of tourism, and the convention updates from Kampala were all over the world media channels.
Maureen Mulangira, the UPBC treasurer, was also appointed to head the ABU women boxing wing.
Last month she attended the Third Annual WBC Women’s Convention in Manila, Philippines which tackled administration, medical and officiating. Among the key issues, Mulangira, the only African delegate in attendance, said they discussed the health and safety of female boxers.
Medics advised that in addition to breast protectors, female boxers need extra protective gear, especially in the area below the navel.
In that meet Malte Muller Michaelis, chairman of the WBC Women’s Championship Committee, said recent conventions agreed that WBC championship fights pay a minimum of $25,000 and that Kenya’s Fatuma Zarika, the WBC super-bantamweight champion, is making that money now. Malte hopes that step by step this becomes the standard.
That is the motivation Uhuru said Ugandan ladies lacked and Mulangira, says such offers will encourage more ladies into the ring and by next year, she hopes to see more female continental champions, “and if some are Ugandans, the better.”

Meet boxers, promoters, officials
Uhuru has opened his office to the key players: boxers, promoters and ring officials. In these meetings, he says, he has learnt things he never imagined. Things like promoters cheating boxers. That is why he has been tough on boxers’ contracts.
“No boxer will go into the ring without a fight contract, even if it’s a charity fight, it must be known,” he said. “We need to protect the boxer.”
The promoters’ have told Uhuru that their main issue is the unreliable gate collection…yet even the sponsorship is also insufficient.
“I agree with them, but I tell them before you promise anything assess how much you are likely to get, then agree with the boxer on how much you are giving him, and the commission must know those contracts.
“It’s a shame to see a professional boxer begging for Shs10,000 for lunch, it must stop.”
Likewise, he says, the promoters also need to benefit from their investment and organise more fights “for our boxers to reclaim their position in the world rankings.”
He added that title fights should go for at least Shs1m.
Meanwhile ring officials—referees or judges—aiming to officiate in ABU events on the continent must pay an annual license of $50 [approximately Shs19,000].
But the officials also request to be paid in advance because often promoters fail to pay them [usually Shs150,000 per official] after the fights.

More promotional companies
Step by Step, Top Boys, A&B, Amigo, Bando-Bando, have joined Baltic, InterSport, among others, in the promotion business. Step by Step’s Eddie Gombya, the man who promoted kickboxing at the peak of Moses Golola’s powers, has held already staged on event at Laponye Mall opposite the Old Taxi Park, in Kampala. He is returning to the same venue with Golola, Badru Lusambya et al, on Boxing Day card. August 25, A&B’s Acram Yiga staged the gold standard of a boxing event at the Hockey Grounds in Lugogo—where Joe Vegas Lubega knocked out Tanzania’s Karama Nyilawila—but we hope the poor attendance, the only blip, does not knock the promoter out of the game. Other promotions like Malingumu and Big Strikers, who were ‘enemies’ with the previous UPBC exec, have agreed to work with the new team, and Uhuru is optimistic.
“With many promotion companies, we expect competition, meaning more quality fights for our boxers.
But he warned boxers who behave unprofessionally, by committing to one event and then appear in another in the same timespan, which might cause rift among promoters.