Abduction motivates Lubega to fight again

Boxer Joseph Vegas Lubega in Training at Kampala Boxing Club in Kampala. PHOTO/ JOHN BATANUDDE 

What you need to know:

Lubega was last seen in the ring in September 2019 when he surrendered his fight in the second round against Russian Timur Sakulin in Russia.

Joseph, ‘Joey Vegas’ Lubega has spent the last few weeks training for the World Boxing Union Intercontinental cruiserweight title against Tanzanian Mbaruku Kheri come October 1.

The fight at the MTN Arena Lugogo, Kampala will headline the first event by new players Gloves & Glory, co-directed by British promoter Marcus Warry and Eddie Bazira in collaboration with Boxwise, a UK-based charity transforming youth lives through boxing and education.  

Lubega was last seen in the ring in September 2019 when he surrendered his fight in the second round against Russian Timur Sakulin in Russia.

But that’s not the reason why he has not fought in three years. Rather, he was hit by two unexpected and tragic opponents: Covid-19 and political persecution that almost forced him into retirement.

Lubega, Mudde Ntambi and Isaac Zebra Ssenyange, under Baltic Pro Box Promotions, were scheduled to fight in Russia on December 27, 2020 but the event was postponed, reportedly, because their opponents tested positive for Covid-19.

Then the worst came. December 29, Lubega went missing that Tuesday night; hours later, Ssenyange was gunned down by commandos near his home in Bwaise, and the following day, Ntambi was detained by government operatives, charged under the military court and remanded at Kitalya Prison until late May 2021.

Lubega’s whereabouts remained unknown until he was dumped in a swamp along Bombo Road in the wee hours of January 23, 2021.

He was tortured, he said. He could not tell the place, nor the time because it was dark throughout the 26 days of detention. He did not even vote for his favourite presidential candidate, Robert Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine, whom he openly supported.  

During abduction, Lubega was beaten and upon his release, he spent weeks nursing severe back pain.

“I thank God for giving me the second chance to fight again. You never know I would also have been gone like my friend Zebra [Ssenyange],” Lubega told Daily Monitor this week after training.

“Actually, that motivates me even more that I still have the chance to do what I love most after that narrow escape from death. It feels like a miracle of sorts.”

But is the former World Boxing Council-International light heavyweight champion fully fit again to do those lateral body movements which are synonymous with his style?

“I think I am still strong and able to train and fight; my only challenge is seeing whether my body and mind can respond to what I want them to do.”

Lubega mostly works with his big brother Charles Ssemakalu and Muhammad Hassan Mulandi, aka Coach Meddie as his trainers.

“I also thank Gloves & Glory for this opportunity and I promise to give the fans the best.

Also on the cards is former African Games silver medallist Isaac Masembe making his professional debut against the little-known Hassan Musuuza; 2020 Olympian Catherine Nanziri against Salma Tibesigwa for the National bantamweight title, among others.


Lubega vs Kheri (WBU Intercontinental)

Isaac Masembe vs Hassan Musuuza (super featherweight)

Catherine Nanziri vs Salma Tibesigwa (National bantamweight title)

Muhammad Kassim vs Hassan Wele (bantamweight)

Stanley Mugerwa vs Frank Ngobi (light middleweight)