In 2013, not as many Ugandan boxers were active in the ring but there was a sigh of big relief in the sport’s amateur ranks after the successful adoption of a new constitution and subsequent elections for the Uganda Boxing Federation (UBF).
The two events offered fresh start for the country’s amateur pugilists. After seven years of administrative wrangling, amateur boxers condemned to inactivity through the period received good news in September when a wholly accepted UBF executive took the mantle to lead the sport.
The polls, which followed an AIBA-guided normalization process, ushered in new faces in leadership, constitution, rules and tournaments in line with the AIBA-recommended changes in the sport. Kenneth Gimugu, a previously little-known figure from Entebbe Boxing Club, beat legislator Issa Kikungwe (MP for Kyadondo South and former vice president in one of the warring Uganda Amateur Boxing Federation leadership factions) with 31 votes against 24.
To avoid a repeat of the chaos that had followed earlier polls in 2008 and 2010, world ruling body AIBA entrusted the Uganda Olympic Committee (UOC) to oversee the normalization processes and elections. UOC appointed the no-nonsense but highly-respected returning officer in Uganda Law Society president Ruth Sebatindira, who did a wonderful job in delivering a smooth poll.
Previously, the Uganda Amateur Boxing Federation (UABF) administration slid into internal power struggles after former president Roger Ddungu quit for the Uganda Olympic Committee in 2008. In the subsequent polls to replace, Ddungu’s vice Dr Ntege Ssengendo and secretary general David Kyambadde lost to Godfrey Nyakana but contested the outcome, setting off the protracted court battles.
But with a wholly agreed-on new constitution, Sebatindira astutely used it to eliminate the aforesaid tainted administrators as candidates for leadership positions in the new setting. The new constitution also set formal education and integrity standards as requirements for those aspiring to lead boxing. Such clauses have widely been applauded because they keep the sport’s administration in safe and capable hands.
Accordingly, the newly-formed UBF has been detached from the scandal-littered past and hopes are high that Gimugu should take the sport back to the glory days. Already, there are signs of a brighter future after UBF has managed to rebuild unity among the boxing fraternity and slowly reviving national tournaments. Recently, they organized the National Novices’ Championship, which attracted over 200 boxers from clubs all over the country.
With such tournaments coming up, Ugandan boxers can dream of their return to the international scene where they had no chance to compete since the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China. The road for 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasglow, 2016 Olympics in Brazil and other major tournaments such as the AIBA Pro events begins next month when UBF hosts the National Open to select The Bombers’ team.
In the professional ranks, Ugandan boxers have struggled to make serious achievements both in the ring and world rankings. US-based Sharif “The Lion” Bogere blew the best chance to become Uganda’s seventh world boxing champion when he lost to Cuban-born Ricardo Abril in a WBA title contest in March.
Back home, there were notable fights involving Joseph “Joey Vegas” Lubega, who retained his WBC International heavyweight belt by stopping Egyptian Hany Atiyo in July and Solomon Bogere who beat Malawian Osgood Kayuni to capture the African super welterweight title last month.
In August, Kenneth Odeke, the much-hyped heavyweight, suffered an embarrassing defeat at the hands of Iranian Sayed Abbas Nassab before an expectant home crowd. In July, Isaac Zebra Ssenyange finally secured his maiden professional victory but devoid of controversy when Musa Batantu, leading on all judges cards, bizarrely punched him instead of honouring the mandatory fairplay gesture before the final round of the middleweight bout.
And on a quarterly basis, former Africa champion Mike Kizza teamed up with retired boxer Paulo Wasaka to organize Fistknights Boxing contests that kept as many boxers active in the ring.
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