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New Faces Take Over Bombers on Road to 2022 Commonwealth Games

The national boxing team (bombers) will feature new faces at the forthcoming 2022 Commonwealth games. Uganda was allocated six slots for the games. The Federation has since selected six athletes comprising five men and one woman to take over from the previous fighters.

The pugilists have already entered residential training ahead of the championship in Birmingham later this month. Joshua Tukamuhebwa, who will be competing in the light welterweight will captain the bombers. 

The others are Jonah Kyob, featherweight, Owen Kibira welterweight, Isaac Ssenyange Light middleweight, Yusuf Nkobeza middleweight, and Teddy Nakimuli, the only woman who will compete in the flyweight category. The whole squad will have to raise their spirit high being their first time competing in the commonwealth games.

But how did it end here? 

The bombers trio that took part in the 2020 summer games including Shadir Musa, David Ssemujju, and Catherine Nanziri were hoping to return to the international scene by participating in the commonwealth at least to make amends after failing in the Olympic games. 

But things turned around when they parted ways with the local amateur boxing governing body- UBF after refusing to sign contracts provided by the boxing body in order to participate in the inaugural boxing champion’s league.

They claimed that the contracts restricted them without stipulating how they would gain from the contracts hence withdrawing from the champions league. Consequently, the three decided to enroll in professional ranks with 12 Sports Round Promotions.

Part of the five-year contract provides that “In case of any other participation in any other event/ activity not sanctioned or approved, the boxer must seek for UBF consent and permission first,” reads the contract. Adding that, “A boxer will also Not Box, train or participate in any other boxing league or competition without first obtaining the consent in writing of UBF or UBF assigned agent.”

Although UBF later allowed the trio to participate in the champions league without signing the contracts, they didn’t show up for fear that they will be not be judged fairly. The development put an end to their hopes of representing the country in the commonwealth after UBF ring-fenced the selection to only boxers who are taking part in the champions league.

While talking to URN, UNF boss Muhangi maintained his decision that the national team for the commonwealth games would be selected from the pugilists who took part in the Uganda Boxing Federation (UBF) Champions league.

While UBF President Muhangi is comfortable with the selected boxers, Sam Rukundo,  the Olympic boxing coach, says the move will limit Uganda’s performance in the games, claiming that the Olympians had already gotten exposure after taking part in the Tokyo event. 

“We have lost, when you go to the Olympics, you are competing with the world’s best, unlike the commonwealth games which are for a particular group of countries, now we shall miss our players who have the good experience after participating in the Olympics games, yet this is the time we need them most, because, with them, our chances of getting medals are high because of the experience they have,” Rukundo told URN

Adding that “If I was the one responsible for selecting the commonwealth team, I would give priority to the Olympians, and then add in other boxers, so, to me, it’s very absurd that these athletes will not represent the country but I pray the leaders to change their decision."

On the contrary, Abdu Tebazalwa, a former Olympian in the 2000 Sydney Olympics, believes it was time for UBF to give chance to other athletes to represent the country. Tebazalwa believes exposure and experience do not guarantee a good performance.

"When I went to the commonwealth, it was my first time but I managed to win some fights, while some of the senior players failed to win any. These guys were lucky to be on the team for that long, It was time to create space for others, let others also get a chance to represent the country," Tebazalwa said, 

The team has already engaged in a buildup tournament in Tanzania (Mountain Kilimanjaro Boxing Open championship) where Uganda had a fairly good display after bagging three gold medals. During these games, team leader Tukamuhebwa, Nkobeza, and Kyobe won gold while Kibira and Nakimuli settled for silver in the invitational tournament.