Ugandans are a people who among other things are so passionate about sports. Every sport has devoted fans that will do anything to catch up with the latest game. Boxing is one of the most popular sports in Uganda today and it has got Ugandans recognized on the international scene.
The sport was not so popular in Uganda, not until the 1960s when celebrated boxers like John Baptist Wandera, Francis Kaweesi, John Makula Sentongo, and many more, hit the boxing arena. Most of these were young and gallant men striving to win medals and be at the top of the game.
The British Commonwealth Games (as they were referred to by then) held in Perth, Australia in 1962 got Uganda to the global acknowledgment when Francis Were Nyagweso, a Light Middleweight boxer, returned home with a Silver medal to the applause of many. In 1974, the British Commonwealth Games changed their name to Commonwealth Games as a result of protests that claimed that the former name symbolized colonialism.
As more Ugandans got interested in the sport and started taking part in it, their numbers grew, as well as the infiltration into global tournaments like the Olympic Games and All Africa Championships. Their participation was indeed not a disappointment because many walked away with medals.
Since boxing is associated with virility, some of the renowned boxers were recruited into the military, to use their skills in service to their nation. Former Ugandan president Idi Amin Dada was a Light Heavyweight boxing champion between 1951 and 1960, and a soldier too. The Uganda National Liberation Front (UNLF) also had a boxing department where soldiers were trained to become professional boxers.
In the domestic arena, Uganda also started to reinforce the sport and with time, tournaments were organized within. The National Open Boxing Championships brought together Ugandans from different parts of the country to exhibit their machismo.
Currently, in Uganda the sport is governed by the Uganda Boxing Federation (UBF) with an executive of seven members. This body brings together the entire boxing fraternity and through this, it has facilitated a number of young boxers to realize their potential. A number of clubs have also been opened up as a way of permeating and popularizing the sport.
Aside from the standard boxing style where only fists are put to use, another genre has taken root in the country; kick-boxing and as the name suggests, boxers are allowed to also kick their opponents. This is headed by the Uganda Kick Boxing Federation (UKBF) and has given rise to kick-boxing sensations like Golola Moses and Ronald Mugula.
Despite the fact that boxing was originally viewed as a sport for men, some women have defied the belief and also taken to the ring. An instance is in Katanga, a slum in Kampala where women take part in local tournaments. They have not only been limited to this; national tournaments have also seen female contenders taking part and winning medals.
Taking part in a match or even just watching it is something not for the faint-hearted as it involves a lot of injury. However, to those who know the rules of the game, this is where all the fun begins. The punches and knockouts (KO) define the game and rivals will do anything in their quest for the medal.
The National Council of Sports (NCS) is in charge of facilitating all sports in Uganda and has played a great role in the area of boxing. However, tribute goes to all the fallen legends who in the early years, worked hard to place Uganda in the boxing limelight.
By Enid Karen Nabumati