Olympic unfairness

Sunday February 07 2021

Nervous Wait. David Ssemujju is a huge prospect for the Olympics but maybe denied a chance if the pending box-offs don’t happen. Muhangi (L)has seen only one Bomber qualify thus far. PHOTO/ISMAIL KEZAALA.

By Abdul-Nasser Ssemugabi

Uganda Boxing Federation (UBF) president Moses Muhangi doubts the fairness of the criteria under which boxers will be selected for the final Olympics slots after the World Olympic Qualifier was cancelled.

On Tuesday, Uganda Olympic Committee president William Blick announced that the event which was slated for June 2021 in Paris, was called off as France entered another lockdown due to a new wave of the coronavirus pandemic.  

Boxers rankings
Blick, a member of the International Olympic Committee Boxing Task Force, said the organisers will consider the boxers’ rankings according to their performances in respective continental qualifiers.

Only the African and the Asia-Oceania qualifiers were completed last year. The European event was discontinued on Day One while the American was postponed. These events were rescheduled to April and May respectively.

Blick told Sunday Monitor on the phone, that the final decision might be announced in about a fortnight. However, it is not yet clear how the organisers shall allot the 35 slots among the men or the 19 women from across the globe.

In February 2020 Uganda took 13 [eight men, the five women] to the African Olympic Qualifiers in Dakar, Senegal but of the five who reached the semis, only welterweight Musa Shadir got the Olympic ticket after winning the box-off. He was among the 33 Africans assured of action in the Tokyo Games.


The other semifinalists were female captain Emily Nakalema and compatriot Catherine Nanziri, featherweight Isaac Masembe and middleweight David Ssemuju, who lost the box-offs and hitherto the Olympic ticket in Dakar.

Uganda waited for the Paris event as its last hope for another boxer to qualify for Tokyo.

No desire to fight
Masembe and Ssemuju pray that they qualify without fighting again but Muhangi fears the selection criteria might be trickier than a competition proper.
The UBF boss added that qualifying boxers without subjecting them to competition may deny others a chance to qualify.

“I haven’t received the communication yet but let me hope the criteria is fair to all federations,” Muhangi said in a phone interview. “Otherwise, it might deny the boxers a chance to compete and qualify.” Having won silver medals at the 2019 African Games in Rabat, Morocco, Ssemuju and Masembe entered the Dakar qualifiers as favourites. Ssemuju was Africa’s top seed in middleweight while Masembe was ranked second among featherweights on the continent. But their rankings after finishing fourth in the qualifier are not known but it is also not clear how the Ugandans will be fancied against other boxers from other continents.

If all the losing semifinalists in Dakar are considered, do they automatically qualify for Tokyo or have to compete for the places with their equivalents from other continents?

In case of the latter, what are Masembe’s chances, for instance, that he will be fancied for one of the five featherweight slots? Or Ssemuju for the four middleweight slots which were up for grabs in the final World qualifier?

The same question applies to the ladies Nakalema and Nanziri. As the IOC Boxing Task Force solves this rather complex puzzle, Muhangi said that if the conditions are not conducive for qualifiers the Games be postponed.

Olympic boxing medals 

1968 Mexico City: 
Eridadi Mukwanga (Bantamweight Silver)
1968 Mexico City: 
Leo Rwabwogo (Flyweight Bronze)
1972 Munich: Leo Rwabwogo (Flyweight Silver)
1980 Moscow: John Mugabi (Welterweight Silver)

What's going on

European Olympic Qualifier – Phase 2: (continuation from the day after it was suspended - day 4 of competition): 
22-26 April 2021, London
Americas Olympic Qualifier: 
May 2021
Final World Olympic Qualifier: June 2021