Why Ugandan pro-boxers fail to progress abroad

Bogere has not fought competitively for three years now

What you need to know:

  • In the US alone, Uganda has more than 20 boxers, active or retired. Sweden has four, the Netherlands three.
  • These boxers whose exodus from home can be traced differently normally are happiest when they get signed and contracted by their promoters or managers. But this upward trend has been seriously obstructed by the recent upheavals.

Labour migration is a significant factor in today’s economy as many people live and work outside their country of birth, including elite athletes who seek employment around the world.
The idea of overseas travel as part of an athlete’s quest for glory and financial improvement has been the norm in many disciplines, especially boxing.

In the US alone, Uganda has more than 20 boxers, active or retired. Sweden has four, the Netherlands three...
Some of the fighters are in the US are Edward Kakembo (feather, 10-8), Ismail Muwendo (lightweight, 21-1), Sharif Bogere (lightweight, 32-2), Sula Segawa (feather, 13-3-1), Hamza Ssempewo (super lightweight,14-11), and Phillip Adyaka (super feather,7-16).

Gym time. Sula Ssegawa.

Others are Rogers Semitala (bantam, 10-0), Eddie Akora (never turned pro), Deo Kizito (lightweight,3-6), Hassan Wasswa (lightweight, 5-16-3), and David Basajjamivule (light heavy, 16-5-1) . 
The likes of Peter ‘Boys’ Semwogerere (20-6, superlight, retired), Hassan ‘Hitman’ Ssaku (12-11, middle, retired) and Michael ‘Action’ Obin (5-14, lightheavy) are in Sweden, Hamza ‘Sand Sack’ Wandera (19-18-3) is in Germany and  Andaman Daku in Netherlands.

Happy beginnings
These boxers whose exodus from home can be traced differently normally are happiest when they get signed and contracted by their promoters or managers. But this upward trend has been seriously obstructed by the recent upheavals.

This reporter asked the same question to many of these boxers recently and they all zeroed at one major answer, bad managers. The question was, what encumbers the progress of Ugandan professional boxers on foreign land?
Kakembo, who fights under the promotion of Top Ranks, said: “Our history, especially on how we got here, does not favour us to get good managers. We actually don’t have managers, we have money makers and opportunists.”
Kakembo’s boxing has been on a slow-drip brew. He is on an eight-fight losing streak, six of them in the US since arriving from Uganda five years ago.

“My manager couldn’t even spend money to get me a good gym. He would rather take me to train in a field where he won’t spend a dime since it’s free. He always aimed at the big pay day when I had a fight, “said Kakembo. 
“That is why we parted ways and because I don’t have a manager, it affects my career in many ways including not getting fights.”

Unforeseen factors
So many things happen before a fight, including matchmaking, favouritism and the bias. In most cases a fight is won in matchmaking, which is based on who you know, how connected your coach is and then the boxer. Does he have a fan-friendly style, is he that kind of style that many people would like to see?

Old time. Justin Jjuuko and top promoter Freddie Roach.

“It’s almost like a set-up, like a trap between the matchmaker and the manager. This is exactly what happened to me. My manager had homegrown boxers he favoured. He would pick good fights for them so as to build their careers. This was not the case with me,” revealed Phillip Adyaka, who recently hung up his gloves in frustration.
“When you look around in a room and you don’t know the referee, judges and don’t know who runs the place, coaches, don’t know your opponent and the matchmaker, there is a 100 per cent chance that you are brought to lose. 

“It always happens to me so many times. Every time they matched me with a boxer, he would either be 10 pounds heavier than me or more experienced and with a better record.”
Bogere is the most fortunate of all the Ugandan boxers in the US with a good promotion (Mayweather) and stable manager in Jimmy Alex (for 14 years). 
He has resided in Las Vegas, one of the US states that fosters boxing, since he turned pro in 2008. He is the poster child for the Pearl of Africa for the last 14 years, with an impeccable record of 32-2-0. 

But his last major title challenge can only be traced way back in 2013. Also, the last time he stepped foot in a ring for a competitive fight was three years ago.
Bogere and his other fellow Ugandan professional boxers are not prospects anymore. They qualified for contender status a long time ago and should be getting title shots now.
Boxing makes Muwendo feel complete. For some reason when he secures his knuckles with a bandage, puts on the gloves, gumshield, ring boots plus his branded purple ring wear, it enables him to become the best version of himself. 

Power punching is his forte, leading him to an enticing and clean record of 21-1-0. But all this is fading fast in thin air since the lightweight Minnesota-based boxer last fought in 2019. 
Rogers Semitala, managed by the same manager Scott Tolszman as Muwendo, finds himself in a similar predicament despite having a young and rich record of 10-0-0.

Age factor
According to Deo Kizito, a feather weight and boxing trainer at Elite Boxing & Fitness, one of the best in Maryland, age is their biggest hindrance.
“There is a lot of talent and ability among us,” said Kizito. “But most of us come here after hitting our prime. At 30 years and above, there is less impact you are going to cause, especially here where boxers start young. In the gym, I train mostly with16- and 20-year-olds who are preparing to become pro boxers.”
He says boxing takes a lot of time and preparation, especially when one wants to be a professional.

Big dreams. Ismail Muwendo.

“When a manager spots you, the first thing he would like to do is build you. But this process takes about four years of training and other important steps that professionals do,” he said. 
“While all this is happening, you don’t get paid, but rather you get food, and gym subscription. 
“So, if you have attachments at home like us, this system can’t work since you need to send money to your family and that is why we end up getting other jobs in addition to boxing. This affects our progression since we are not focused.”

Boxing politics
Based on the above, it makes it hard for Ugandan boxers to get on the right side of boxing politics. 
‘A’ is the right side, the top billing, lions share of profits. ‘A’ side leads and ‘B’ side follows. The B side is the underdog who has less of a say in negotiations and decisions.
“This is a big thing in American boxing and affects us bigly. We can’t negotiate for fights, can’t pick opponents and can’t even decide fight dates. We just take any offer that comes our way even if its a late notification, “Kizito disclosed. 

The unusual behaviour of these managers and other factors considered has hindered and frustrated the progress of talented Ugandan boxers abroad. 
Most are spent forces, reluctant to train and fight. Others are in semi-retirement and more have hung up their gloves.
[email protected]