Boxing league: African medalists to hype Week 16

Main Fight. Broline Kimbugwe Broline white trucks beat Richard Kasujja 5-0 in the Elite 71 kilograms. PHOTO/JOHN BATANUDDE 

What you need to know:

The main fight pits two African bronze medalists who are also familiar foes.

With hardly a month to the climax of the Uganda Boxing Champions League Season Two, on Boxing Day, every bout counts, especially those eyeing the belts and national slots. 

But Week 16 shall be remembered for dragging national team boxers back into the ring at the Lugogo Indoor Arena. 

Here we shall see several rematches: closely contested duels and one-sided affairs that will be preceded by the National Novices final. 

Yusuf Nkobeza vs Ronald Okello (75kg)

The main fight pits two African bronze medalists who are also familiar foes.

Nkobeza grabbed headlines when he won a bronze medal at the 2022 African Confederations Boxing Championship in Maputo, Mozambique. Several months later he picked $2500 (about Shs9m) as prize money for the feat.

The status of the ghetto boy from Banda changed tremendously but in July he was among the Bombers who were dropped ahead of the 2023 Africa Confederations Boxing Championship in Yaounde, Cameroon.

Ronald Okello, who took his middleweight slot, justified his selection by winning bronze. For that he will get $5000 (about Shs18m) because the prize money was doubled.

Now Okello, who was a basketballer until 2019, feels more experienced against an opponent he will be facing for the third time since 2022. Still, after one win and a draw Nkobeza is plotting another victory.

“Definetly, this year hasn’t gone the way I wanted. I didn’t fight as often as I expected but that’s life,” said Nkobeza who defeated newcomer Ronald Nsamba in June, his only opponent since September 2022.

Nevertheless, that inactivity will not matter. “I am very fit this time, I have trained well, I am in the right shape and no excuses.

Nkobeza admits international exposure has made the Gulu-based Okello a better boxer than the one he faced last year. “Nowadays, he boxes with some wit. But still I will winwin."

Wasswa Ssali vs Jaffer Onen (60kg)

Ssali, the pioneer of Zebra Boxing Club, had braved thousands of punches against opponents in different generations on the local scene until his moment finally came.

On his international debut at African Championship in Yaounde, the lightweight was the best Bomber, scooping a silver medal and $10,000 (Shs37m) in prize money.

When seven Ugandans had fallen in the preliminaries, including stoppages, it was Ssali who scored the Bombers  first win in Yaounde. 

Since then, whenever he is on the cards, we must pay attention. Now he wants to finish the year as the national lightweight champ. But first, he must sort East Coast’s Jaffer Onen, whom he has fought several times before. 

Onen himself needs to redeem his career having lost his last two fights in the league. First,  against childhood friend Joshua Tukamuhebwa in August and against Jimmy Adriko last month.

He must also improve if he is to make his senior Bombers debut after his appearance at the 2018 Africa Youths Championships in Casablanca, Morocco.

Nadia Najjemba vs Fatuma Nabikolo (54kg)

This is a match that has happened several times before. The latest was in August when Najjemba, as on most occasions, won 5-0. 

Could Nabikolo finally smile to victory or Najjemba will again show the benefits of international exposure, despite losing 3:2 in the preliminaries of the African Championships in Yaounde? 

Zahara Nandawula vs Suzan Namitala (60kg)

Nandawula, another product of Kyengera Boxing Club and Nsangi SS like Nandawula, put on her best show, combining speed, power and spirit to stave off  Sarah Laker's aggression in early October. 

Perhaps, this improvement was a product  of the exposure she got on the continent in Yaounde, despite losing in the preliminaries. 

Now she must reproduce that form against Namitala to prove her growing consistency. 

There is little to write home about Namitala but Nandawula should know that  such unknown quantities are always eager to surprise.

Broline Kibugwe vs Depark Mawanda (71kg)

This is a redemption shot for Kimbugwe, whose fans call "Stylist." About six weeks ago he was exposed by Isaac Zebra Ssenyange Jr in a one-sided affair that had ironically  been advertised as a thriller. 

Now Kimbugwe must put on a good  show for his mammoth following before he takes the equally popular Muzamir Ssemuddu on December 26. 

Meanwhile Mawanda has nothing much to lose. He has lost both his league bouts: 3-2 against Richard Kasujja before being knocked out by Ssemuddu. 

 He has no chances to win the light middleweight title but he can play spoiler.