National Open: Lukanga, UPDF renew rivalry

Lukanga manager Daniel Musanje (2nd R) and a boxer showing the number plates for the club's bike as Uganda Boxing Federation (UBF) president Moses Muhangi looks on. PHOTO/ABDUL-NASSER SSEMUGABI

What you need to know:

Except for the welterweight final, where Mutajjazi fans threw bottles into the ring opposing Simon Sande’s 4-1 win over Yasin Adinan, the tournament officials did a fairly good job.

The low-key ambience at the 2023 National Open Boxing Championship did not match the long wait for the annual tournament that last happened in 2019. This is how the rivalry shaped the 2023 National Open, witnessed by scanty but

The fans were loud but many yellow chairs inside the MTN Arena-Lugogo remained cold, even on the final on Thursday that had several thrillers.

Nevertheless, 2023 will be remembered for reviving the UPDF- Lukanga Boxing Club rivalry, as last seen in 2015.

However, signals were sent in December when UPDF took the Elites Intermediates trophy while Lukanga came second, despite taking the overall trophy on 85 points.

Lukanga overall champs but…

As expected, Lukanga rode away on a brand new TVS motorbike for winning the overall National Open title, beating 27 clubs with a total of 81 points from the Juniors, Youths and Elites categories. But rivals say the best funded club shouldn’t brag much after missing out on the Elites trophy.

Lukanga will thank youngsters Mukisa Ssekitto, Julius Lukwago, Mark Lukomagi, Ali Nsubuga, etc, who gathered 37 points to win the Juniors trophy—the only category they won. UPDF took the Elites’ trophy while Cobap took the Youths.

UPDF breaks eight-year wait 

UPDF gathered 32 points to beat Lukanga to the Elites trophy for the first time since 2015.

After Lukanga closed the gap after dominating the women’s final on Wednesday,

UPDF needed two wins from four of its finalists. But Tonny Ssekabira’s team were disheartened when two of Lukanga’s three finalists got free six points from walkovers. Then UPDF’s Abdul Shantal lost the minimum weight final to KCCA’s Innocent Tumusiime.

In the title decider, however, Adam Jamdali Nsereko surprisingly came from behind to beat Lukanga’s Arafat Kibirige 4-1 to extend UPDF’s lead to 29 points, leaving Lukanga on 28.

Veteran Mike Ssekabembe’s hard-fought win against Army’s Sabath Zikama just iced the cake. KCCA came third with 25 points, East Coast 18.

Meanwhile, Ssekabembe’s son Jonathan Wasswa was the only UPDF finalist among the Youths but only took their tally to nine points, finishing behind Copab and Lukanga.

How bright can the new stars shine?

Isaac Ssebuufu, the revelation of the 2019 National Open, did not match his elder brother David Ssemuju’s success in amateur boxing. But the University of Pain graduate, now in the professional ranks, has a good reputation among fans and foes.

The same test awaits Paul Rascara and Khasim Mulungi—the gems of the 2023 tournament. Mulungi of East Coast was the best boxer of the tournament after beating Eliphaz Mbaziira to the featherweight gold.

The electric Rascara, was lucky to take light welter gold after edging UPDF’s Innocent Amoko in the bout of the tournament. Shall he dethrone Bombers' captain Joshua Tukamuhebwa, who come from the same Naguru stable?

Improved fairness

Except for the welterweight final, where Mutajjazi fans threw bottles into the ring opposing Simon Sande’s 4-1 win over Yasin Adinan, the tournament officials did a fairly good job.

Amoko vs. Rascara was another tricky decision—it could go either way. But unlike before, referees and judges did not dominate news for dubious decisions.

Final results - National Open 2023


Lukanga      37 points

Sparks          15

Kalinabiri  12

Kcca               11

Mutajjazi     10


Cobap        23 points

Lukanga 16

Updf            9

Katabi        9

Mutajjazi 9


Updf             32 points

Lukanga    28

Kcca             25

Eastcoast 18

Cobap           17