Ranking the 10 greatest Ugandan Boxers of all time

By: NACHO BLACK ARMO 

It’s in nature of mankind to assess and make comparisons in all areas and aspects of life. The competition is an unseen natural motive behind the life man lives.

Who is better here and who was better there, could this guy have bettered him if they lived in the same times? Such are questions but all left in life time arguments, speaking of life time arguments, is it Maradona or Pele, the greatest footballer of all time? yeah, like I thought, we all already have different answers to that.

Seeing the unseen motive driving our day to day life, we ask ourselves who are the top 10 greatest boxers Uganda has ever produced. You will hear legendary talks and accusations of how I left out the other guy in favor of this one but in the end we shall be agree to one thing, comparison flirts and drives mankind to seek motive that clearly and clearly manifests the difference in preferences and yet we can not dispute greatness.

10. Sam Rukundo ‘Rocky’

Rukundo was born of May 18th 1980, Like many other Boxers in the country, he started humble in slums but got his first big shot in the 2004 Summer Olympics in Lightweight division.

He had a great tournament until he got stopped by Russia’s Murat Khrachev. Having spotted huge talent in him, James Cook took him as his trainee under the management of Muckey Helliet for professional bouts. 20 total professional fights, 15 wins, 6 by K.Os 4 losses and one draw. Rukundo has been twice African Champion.

Rukundo’s Knock out percentage is rated at 35%

9.Godfrey Nyakana.

The name is not new to Ugandan and World Wide Boxing, he is an icon who inspired a lot of youths to join boxing in the mid and late 90s. Nyakana represented Uganda in Auckland, New Zealand Commonwealth Games in 1990 alongside the Bombers Squad that had boxers like Justin Juuko, Lubulwa, Mubiru, Dr Ssekajugo, Maj. Gen.Nyangweso (RIP), Sabata, Agong, Jimenez, Wakabu, Matata, Muteweta and some others.

At this time Nyakana represented in Lightweight division and helped Uganda secure a gold medal in these Commonwealth Games. This edition was so colorful for Uganda as both Nyakana and Justin Juuko who was fighting in Flyweight then won gold medals while Joseph Sabata and Charles Matata brought home bronze medals. Nyakana fought a total of 36 fights, he won 31, lost 4 and drew once,won 19 by K.Os which puts his Knock out percentage at 53% .

8. Sharif Bogere ‘The Lion’

Born 8th October 1988, Sharif is one of the most exciting flamboyant boxers of his generation with such a beautiful run.

He is an aggressive Orthodox fighter who loves to throw rapid assaults to his opponents.

“I have watched him 4 times in Vegas and he seems to possess the potential to go far”.

Mike Tyson a very respected great of the game said. He lives by the trademark of the lion and he often wears the lion’s head into the ring.

Raising to the occasion Sharif destroyed Julian Rodriguez the Mexican in September 18th, 2010 on the undercard fights of Shane Mosley vs Sergio Mora by knock out in the 2nd round. Sharif with his aggressive punches once forced Julio his opponent, to refuse come back to the fight, remaining seated on his stool after a hard 5 round experience against the lion.

Sharif’s flourishing talent saw him being signed by the Golden boy’s Promotion under Oscar Del Hoya before Floyd Maywether signed him to the Maywether promotions.
Sharif has notably stood out on WBO and NBO lightweight World Champion, he has a total of 30 professional fights, 29 wins (20 by K.Os),1 loss. His knock out percentage is rated at 65%.

7. Mohamed Muruli (R.I.P)

Born July 13th 1947, Muruli is one of the most skillful boxers Africa has ever produced. He competed in numerous tournaments like the Summer Olympics in Mexico City 1968 where he managed to reach quarter finals in Lightweight division. He later competed in Summer Olympics in Munich 1972 in an advanced division, (Light welterweight).

Unfortunately for Muruli as gifted as he was, he never turned professional, he spent all his career fighting local and international amateur competitions, he won a number of medals including golds both locally and internationally. He holds the record for the only Ugandan to ever win 2 Commonwealth Games’ gold medals in boxing. This puts this legend outright on our list.

6. Kassim Ouma ‘The Dream’

Kassim was born 12th December 1978 among a family of 13. He is famously known for having deserted the army (A.W.O.L) in search to boost his boxing Career. He recorded a record of 62 wins and only 3 losses in amateur fights before he started professional boxing.

When the Uganda National Amateur team toured U.S.A, Kassim chose to stay in the U.S to pursue a professional career, it didn’t take so long for the lad to win the IBF (International Boxing Federation) Junior Middleweight World title. He continued his dominance as he defended his title against Ghanian Kofi Jonathan.

Kassim Ouma has a total of 41 professional fights, 29 Wins (18 by K.O) and 10 losses. His Knock out percentage is rated at 44%.

5.Leo Rwabogo ( R.I.P)

Leo was born on 3rd June 1949 and died on January 14th 2009. In times when no one believed Uganda was something in boxing, Leo challenged the world. He won a bronze medal in 1968 at the Olympics held in Mexico and even got better 4 years later when he won a silver in a more prestigious edition held in Munich, hence making him the first Ugandan to ever win an Olympic medal though he was followed by another boxer in Bantamweight division Mukwanga Eridad who won a silver a day after Leo had broken the locks. Leo also holds the record as the only Ugandan to own two medals from the Olympics, i.e Mexico city 1968 and Munich 1972, he won both medals in Flyweight division.

4. Cornelius Boza Edwards.

Born 27th May 1956. Cornelius fought in a number of divisions and he is one of the most respected boxing figures in Ugandan boxing history. Lupe Pintor the Mexican had earlier fought in a ring with Johnny Owen, a fight which saw Owen lose his life hence the Mexicans using a quote ” I know what happens to British boxers when they face Mexicans”.
The Mexicans were dominating boxing at the time Cornelius rose but never the less, he took on the challenge.

Cornelius won the WBC World Junior Lightweight title defeating Limón the Mexican behind the “I know what happens to British boxers when they face Mexicans” quote in 1981. He went on to defend his title against Bobby Chacon who he defeated by a technical K.O in the 14th round. Cornelius however, lost the title to Rolando Navarrete who stopped him in round 5 with a K.O. Cornelius fought a total of 53 professional fights, won 45 (34 by K.Os), lost 7 (4 by K.Os) and drew once.

This puts his knock Out percentage to 64%.

3.Justin Juuko. ‘The Ugandan Destroyer’

Born December 26th 1972, Juuko famously known as the Ugandan destroyer for the boxing legacy he built. His blossoming career sparked off big in 1990 when he was named part of the Bombers that would go on to represent Uganda in the Commonwealth Games that were held in Auckland New Zealand, indeed just like Godfrey Nyakana who was also on same squad, Juuko scooped a gold medal in Flyweight division.

He never looked back, he nurtured his professional career that saw him win the WBC International Super featherweight title, WBC FaceBox super featherweight title, ABU lightweight title, NABF super featherweight title as well as challenging for a number of World titles.

The biggest highlight later came when he faced an undefeated Floyd Maywether for the WBC super Featherweight title a fight which he lost by K.O in the 9th round. Juuko fought a total of 58 professional fights, Won 45 (30 by K.Os), lost 12 ( 11by K.Os) and drew 1. This puts his knock out percentage at 52%

2. Ayub Kalule

Born 6th January 1954, Ayub is among the greatest boxers not only in Uganda but Africa as whole. It was 1974 in Havana Cuba where Ayub wrote his first Mark conquering the World welterweight title as an amateur. He immediately chose to go professional at the time boxing had the great Sugar Ray Leonard. Ayub went on to win the World Light-middleweight Championship which he lost to Sugar Ray in an exciting fight. In the year 1979 Ayub captured the WBA Junior Middleweight title in Japan against Masaji Kudo who was the defending champion in the bout.

He subsequently defended his championship 4 times before stepping up against Sugar Ray in 1981 in Houston Astrodome. Between the 1st and 6th round, the little known Ayub landed a lot of effective hard punches, the fight proved harder for Ray than he had thought but he gained momentum and controlled the fight and this saw Ayub getting knocked down in the 9th round, hence Ray becoming the new champion.

Ayub later took on Davey Moore for the WBA Jr Middleweight title in an amazing fight but he got knocked down in the 10th round. This wasn’t over for the Ugandan boxer as he later went on and conquered the European Middleweight title and defended it well. It was February 5th 1986 when Ayub Kalule called it quits after losing his European Middleweight title to Herol Graham.
Ayub fought a total of 50 professional fights, won 46 (23 by K.Os), Lost 4 (all by K.Os) and drew none. This marks his Knock out percentage on 46%.

1.John Mugabi ‘ The Beast’

Born 4th March 1960. Mugabi who was nicknamed the Beast due to his aggressive ring style, he is regarded as one of the greatest talents light Middleweight has ever seen. He boxed in times where boxing had a lot of sweet talent in the division call it the golden era of 1980 which had boxers like Sugar Ray (who was about to retire), Marvin Hagler, Davey Moore, Roberto Durán and many others.

The Beast’s career kicked off with a mark in the Summer Olympics 1980 where he won a Silver Medal in the Welterweight division hence making him the only Ugandan to come home with a medal in the entire championships. Earlier in the All African Games in 1978, Mugabi had managed to win a bronze medal in the light Welterweight division.

His professional career broke out on a high as he stopped Karadenis in the first round with a heavy K.O on his move to England, Mugabi got hooked to Mickey Duff who had great skills in boxers’ marketing, Duff secured a number of fights for the Beast and his mark continued in growth. Mugabi kept changing from one weight to another, but to people’s surprise, he was never affected at all, he kept knocking down all opponents presented before him even after he moved to Florida.

Mugabi won the WBC super welterweight and challenged for the World titles at Middleweight including the undisputed Championship.

Mugabi dominated a number of American TV show time shows and magazines with his ruthless knock outs, sooner or later he would face Hagler in a fight which is arguably Hagler’s greatest challenge. Mugabi landed his heavy blows to Hagler causing a lot of questions but the fight turned around in the 6th round, Hagler fired far too many hard punches to the Beast that he staggered and lost balance, however Mugabi fought back but Hagler knocked him down in the 11th round. This fight called Sugar Ray Leonard out of retirement to come take on Hagler for the middleweight title.

Mugabi was so disappointed that he opted to retire after the loss though his retirement didn’t last long, he later came back to fight for the world light middleweight which was open. Mugabi suffered with a an eye injury due to Duane Thomas’ 3rd round punch. After an optical surgery he went on to lose 2 consecutive fights and later struggled with weight gain, he didn’t fight for some long time almost for a year and months. In 1988 Mugabi returned to the ring on the undercard of Mike Tyson’s title defense against Holmes. Mugabi reminded people who he was by knocking down Bryan Grant in round one.

In 1996, Mugabi captured the Australian Middleweight titles defeating Jamie Wallace and he stands out as one of the boxers with the longest knock out streaks in world boxing. Mugabi fought a total of 50 professional fights,won 42 (39 by K.Os) lost 7 (all by K.Os) and drew once. Mugabi’s knock out percentage is rated at 78%.

In order to be the best you must take on and beat the best. Boxing just like kickboxing, badminton, judo, karate etc is an individual based sport. You have what you may call your ‘Team’ but when the bell rings it’s you against the opponent. There is little your team/coach can do to save you from a battering apart from maybe throwing in the towel, this is the reason I personally as a fan of the sport got so much respect for the the guys on the list for what they archived individually and for representing the country like true warriors. We may disagree on the order but one thing I am sure of is that these are the best the country has had.

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