Bombers keep fingers crossed for Tokyo 2020

Thursday February 25 2021

Catherine Nanziri (left) at the African Olympic Qualifiers in Dakar, Senegal, last year. PHOTO/COURTESY

By Abdul-Nasser Ssemugabi

Four Ugandan boxers stand a chance to get tickets to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, according to rankings by the International Olympic Committee Boxing Task Force.

At the African Olympic Qualifiers in Dakar, Senegal in February 2020, featherweight Isaac Masembe, middleweight David Ssemuju and Catherine Nanziri, lost their semifinals and the third-place box-offs, hence missing the Olympics tickets.

The other semifinalist, lady captain Emily Nakalema also missed the ticket and for a year now, the four and the other Ugandans have been in limbo on what next on their narrow road to Tokyo.

The Final World Qualifier, their would-be last hope, scheduled in May 2020, in Paris, France was postponed alongside the entire Olympic event due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The qualifier was rescheduled to June 2021 before it was eventually cancelled earlier this month. The IOC Task Force declared that the 53 slots available will be shared according to boxers’ continental rankings.

Now according to the latest rankings, based on previous touurnaments, the four Ugandans stand a chance to get the coveted Olympic ticket.


In the men’s middleweight (75kg), David Ssemuju is joint fifth in the world and second in Africa, with 300 points. He stands the highest chances because top seed Younes Nemouchi of Algeria already got his ticket to Tokyo. (Ssemuju lost the semifinal in Dakar 4-1 to Nemouchi).

Featherweight Isaac Masembe (57kg) also has 300 points, which puts him joint seventh in the world, but he is 35 points behind Moroccan Mohamed Hamout, who stopped at the quarterfinals in Dakar.

With 200 points, Nanziri ranks 12th in the world among the female flyweights and fourth on the continent. She stands a chance because the top three in Africa –Rabab Cheddar of Morocco, Roumaysa Boulam of Algeria and Christine Ongare of Kenya, all qualified to the Olympics.

Welterweight Nakalema, (69kg), with 200 points is joint 10th in the world and fourth in Africa, with her direct rival being Elizabeth Akinyi of Kenya, who is also 10th on 200 points.

The final ranking will be communicated July 6, the Sport Entries deadline after the conclusion of the European and Americas continental qualifiers. Only Africa and Asia-Oceania finished their respective events last year.

Cancelling World qualifier denies young boxers Olympic chance - Aiba

Aiba-the world governing body for boxing has expressed discontent towards the International Olympic Committee for cancelling the Final World Olympic qualifier as it denies young boxers a chance.

The IOC Boxing Task Force cancelled the final qualifier, which was postponed from May 2020 to June 2021, due to another wave of the coronavirus in Europe and resorted to allocating the 53 slots using boxers’ rankings according to recent tournaments. Aiba finds that unfair to young boxers.

“The ranking system…does not take into account youth competitions, so young boxers born in 2001-2002 will be deprived of the chance to compete at the Games and fulfil their dream,” Aiba said in a statement quoted by

In 2019, IOC suspended Aiba as the Olympic governing body for boxing due to concerns on governance, finances and refereeing and judging. The IOC created a task force to exclusively run the roadmap for boxers to qualify for Tokyo 2020.

“We respect the decision of colleagues from the IOC Taskforce; it is important for us to find boxing in the Olympic programme and fulfill the Olympic dream of our athletes,” the statement says.

“However, we believe that it was possible to retain the qualifiers.

“In this challenging time, Aiba strives to host as many tournaments as possible in compliance with all safety measures and the experience of our National Federations suggest that it is possible to successfully conduct official competitions during the pandemic, and we would be ready to share this experience.”

 “A qualification tournament would be a more objective way to qualify for the Olympics.

Uganda Boxing Federation president Moses Muhangi raised the same issues when the IOC announced these changes two weeks ago. 


David Ssemuju (75kg): 300 points, 5th in world, 2nd in Africa
Isaac Masembe (57kg): 300 points, joint 7th in world, 4th in Africa

Emily Nakalema (69kg): 200 points, 10th
Catherine Nanziri (51kg): 200 points, 12th in the world, 4th the continent.

*Only Musa Shadir qualified for Tokyo