Can the three Bombers break bronze jinx against rival Maghreb opponents?

Wednesday August 28 2019

Female Bomber Baleke (L) and male coun

Female Bomber Baleke (L) and male counterparts Ssemujju (C) and Masembe have work to do. PHOTOS: I. KEZAALA 


KAMPALA- When boxers Isaac Masembe, David Ssemujju, and Hellen Baleke return to the ring inside the Al Amal Indoor Sports Center in Rabat today, history will be their other opponent, moreover against Arabian adversaries.

Since Abdul Tebazaalwa and Muhammad Kizito won gold in Johannesburg 1999, no Ugandan boxer has ever reached the African Games final, which explains the Bombers’ paltry four bronze medals in four editions.

In Abuja 2003, Jolly Katongole and Tebazaalwa’s little brother Sadat got bronze. In Algiers 2007, the worst performance, ever, Uganda got no medal, while in Maputo 2011 and Brazzaville 2015, Ronald Serugo and Kennedy Katende got bronze respectively.

Maghreb opponents
After outclassing Equatorial Guinea’s Raul Obama Monday night, Ssemuju faces Egyptian Ahmed Abdelmoneim, who edged Algerian Sofiane Tabi 3-2.
Abdelmoneim, 20, is six years Ssemuju’s junior, with no notable experience. But Ssemuju must deal with the bias Ugandan boxers have against North African opponents that a Ugandan has to be exceptional to win a decision. It’s why many deviate from their A-game and seek the usually elusive knockout. If Ssemuju squeezes through to the final, one of his potential opponents for gold could also be from the Maghreb—Moroccan Tarik Allali, who faces Kenyan Cosby Ouma in the other middleweight semi.

Featherweight Isaac Masembe has equally been brilliant, dispatching two opponents 5-0. “I’m going for gold,” he vowed pretournament. “Bronze isn’t fulfilling,” he added after routing Carlos Semedo of Cape Verde on Monday.

He deserves the bragging rights. But in today’s semis he faces a sterner test against three opponents: a slightly more experienced Algerian Oussama Mordjane, a cut beneath his left eye, suffered in a 5-0 victory over DR Congo’s Rocky Bukasa and the natural bias against Arabic opponents. Handling all these requires strength of character and of course, luck.


Meanwhile, middleweight Baleke’s long honeymoon is over. Eight days since she got a straight bye into the semis, she finally tests action today. Already assured of bronze, before throwing a jab, Baleke would wish for gold or silver. Moroccan Khadija Mardi, who beat Ghana’s Ornella Sathoud on Saturday, stands in the way.

Featherweight, 57kgs, 3 ROUNDS
Masembe vs. Mordjane (ALG)
Middleweight, 75kgs, 3 ROUNDS
Ssemujju vs. Abdelmoneim (EGY)
Middleweight, 75kgs, 3 ROUNDS
Baleke vs. Mardi (MOR)
1999: 2 gold, 1 silver, I bronze (medals)
2003: 2 bronze medals
2007: No medal
2011: 1 bronze medal
2015: 1 bronze medal