In the middle of his monster hit ‘Blowin’ Money Fast’, the big bearded American rapper Rick Ross belts out the killer line ‘… I am self made, you’re just affiliated…’ It is a line that I have always connected with on a deeper level in much the same way as an extract from one the many poems of the great William Shakespeare or a quote from a Winston Churchill type might inspire generations.
If there was one person in Uganda, who could adopt this line as his own and be spared court action for plagiarism by the originator, that man is Moses Golola.
All that Rick Ross would have to do is listen to the Golola story; the American would promptly concur that the Ugandan kickboxer’s tale rhymes perfectly with his lyrics.
A friend posted a picture on Whatsapp, of Golola’s fancy motorcade in a slow but loud procession only hours before his fight against Ronald Mugula on Friday night.
“Shouldn’t he be resting and preparing for the fight?” was this friend’s concern. But it was all too clear that rather than mediate, the one-man salesman and marketing machine was making some last-minute ticket sales and must have drawn in hundreds of typically late bandwagoners.
In Uganda we tend to confine our model success story to the one guy who went through the school system, accumulated academic papers and rose to CEO or minister, or the other one, who started off selling matooke in Nyendo or hawking small goodies in Owino and now owns several shopping arcades.
While Golola is still miles away from the monetary and social status of your archetypal CEO, politician or property tycoon, he is in many plain clear and intricate ways every bit an admirable Ugandan success story as the best of them.
How a man hailing from a deprived background has taken a prior-to unknown discipline to the forefront of Ugandan sport, turning himself into a prime-time news item, one-stop quote centre, traffic stopper and the talk of town and village still beggars belief years after he first hit the scene.
But the success story to aspire to goes beyond the initial rise to fame; it is even more in the bouncing back after the initial hyperbole on the streets and airwaves had ended in anti-climatic defeats in the ring and unanimously being written off.
Not too many Ugandans come back from that, and the show of strength of character and resilience to be admired manifested itself in how a man so humiliated literally lifted himself off the canvas, put his hands up and went back to work.
Those only affiliated, like Titus Tugume and Mugula, stepped in, seized the opportunity, used the pedestal and elevated themselves (nothing wrong with that, mind).
But the man self made has boomeranged, put them in their place, and recaptured his throne not only inside but outside the ring as well.
While he needs to stay in the ring, Golola has to step out of the box and look to turn fame into more fortune than just the ticket sales, prize money and sponsorships.
The most quotable athlete since Muhammad Ali has to copyright those insanely hilarious one-liners; the man who is outgrowing the back pages has to overall patent and then aggressively market and sell a brand with the nascent potential to transcend sport.
We haven’t earned the right to be but we are cynics in Uganda, we dismiss and belittle; but we also buy big time into those who think and act big, and so Golola should not sell himself short.
A measure of what Golola means to kickboxing is that he could still sell a fight against a virtual unknown even after he had been repeatedly embarrassed in combat and been labelled everything from empty tin to impostor; yet after he has beaten both, Tugume and Mugula will not as much as cause a ripple again unless it is with rematches with the one and only (after all, even when they were the favourites going into fights against him, Golola remained the top attraction).
To the two and to the rest of the country, Golola has to have the confidence to borrow from Rick Ross and that BMF hit and intone ‘… I built it ground up, you bought it renovated …’
firstname.lastname@example.org, @markssali on twitter