The Uganda national boxing team, the Bombers will travel to Tokyo, Japan next week for the Olympic Games due July 21 to August 8.
The team will have at least three weeks of training in Japan before the games start. For a sport that’s been Uganda’s best performing at the Olympics, they will feel like they have a head start.
Led by Bombers’ captain Shadir Musa Bwogi (welterweight), there’s pressure on him and his colleagues – David Ssemujju (middleweight) and Catherine Nanziri (flyweight) to keep the proud legacy alive.
And if they do add to Uganda’s tally of seven medals, four of which have come from boxing, the Bombers, their coaches will be smiling to the bank.
However, it will take a gigantic effort as the last boxer to win an Olympic medal was John ‘The Beast’ Mugabi at the 1980 Games in Moscow, Russia.
He got a Silver in the welterweight division.
At their farewell event, Uganda Boxing Federation (UBF) president Moses Muhangi promised to reward them with Shs5m for Gold, Shs3m for Silver and Bronze is worth Shs2m.
The last bomber to go beyond their first bout at the Olympics was lightweight Sam Rukundo who managed the feat at the 2004 Games in Athens, Greece.
Rukundo’s run ended in the quarter finals. If any of three bombers matches Rukundo, Muhangi has staked a further Shs1m.
“We have had the best training and this offer gives us the motivation to work harder,” said Nanziri.
In 2019, Muhangi promised Shs3m for a gold winner, Shs2m for silver and Shs1m for bronze at the All Africa Games in Morocco.
After the competition Helen Baleke (Bronze) Ssemuju (Silver) and Isaac Masembe (Silver) gladly walked away with their tokens.
Coaches in charge of the team including Muhammad Mulandi and Patrick Lihanda will also be rewarded with Shs2.5m for medals won.
Lihanda, a former Olympian, is confident that his team is in position to win medals but he calls upon the current federation to improve boxing in various ways so as to return to their previous glory.
“It was the weakness of previous federation leaders that Ugandan boxers have been beaten in the first bout but now we want to do something different,” Lihanda said.
Adding that: “Basing on experience, we need exposure, we take a long time to participate in competitions here and outside. We request the president to take boxing in all parts of the country as well as taking boxing back to schools.”
However, Muhangi was not pleased with the latter part of the team’s camp at Kavumba Recreation Centre amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Recently, Bwogi and Ssemujju, members of KCCA Boxing Club, left camp to meet the KCCA executive director Dorothy Kisaka.
She gave them Shs3m and other items to help in training. Muhangi has urged the team manager Twaib Mayanja to instil discipline among the boxers.
“Getting out is not necessary. Those invitations are uncalled for, those who want to invite bombers should just come to the camp under proper coordination. The mistake of one boxer can cost the whole team,” Muhangi advised.
“Let’s control our excitement. What we need most is going to the Olympic games because that is where the business is,” he added.