How Does The Rugby World Cup Draw Work John Baker Muwanga and Oscar Joseph Nsubuga: Uganda Sibling Boxing Champions

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John Baker Muwanga and Oscar Joseph Nsubuga: Uganda Sibling Boxing Champions

John Baker Muwanga, one of Uganda’s most respected boxing champions, was born on April 2, 1956 in the outskirts of Kampala and grew up in Nsambya. Joseph Nsubuga, another of Uganda’s famous ex-boxers, was Muwanga’s older half-brother.

Equally unique and fascinating is how Muwanga started boxing, how he progressed, and why and how he hung up his gloves. His journey to boxing began when his half-brother Nsubuga, who was born in Kenya in the early 1950s, turned up in 1963 at the family home in Nsambya, accompanied by his sister and mother. The children’s father was employed by East African Railways and Ports, where he worked in Kenya. Muwanga was glad to have his older brother by his side. Nsubuga used to box. Soon after, Muwanga accompanied Nsubuga to the police boxing club in Nsambia on several occasions. But Muwanga was not enthusiastic about the sport. Also, Muwanga’s mother will soon leave the house, taking Muwanga and one of his sisters with her to live elsewhere. He soon found himself a student at Mugwanya (Kabaja) Preparatory School, a boarding school; and after that he was transferred to the subsidiary school of St. Savio Primary School on Entebbe Road.

In Savio in 1969, Muwanga ended up fighting a bully who happened to be the son of a politically prominent figure. As a result, Muwanga was expelled from school. His father was very angry and assured him that he would never make anything up. While Nsubuga’s brother made steady progress in boxing, Muwanga gained attention for simply being a brother, although he was rated as comparatively weak and not as tough as his boxer brother. It was here that Muwanga decided to try boxing. He was compared to playing opponents, beaten hard and laughed at. People from northern Uganda were considered good fighters and Muwanga was discouraged from continuing to box on the grounds that such boxers would “kill you for nothing”. But the taunts only made Muwanga even more determined to refute the naysayers.

Muwanga ventured to participate in the national junior championship held at the Nsambia police shed. He will represent Nsambia Boxing Club. In that time and place, in those days, medical tests were not up to standard or taken seriously. Muwang was allowed to practice boxing. He has been compared to rival Thilima from the Naguru Boxing Club. In the struggle, Muwanga did not prove himself; his opponent, who was much better than him, did everything not to humiliate him. Tilima even pretended to be knocked down, even though he wasn’t hit. Muwanga writes (personal communication, June 10, 2014):

“What a show!!! This guy tried his best not to humiliate me, but the losers laughed until tears rolled down their cheeks. The guy even pretended to be knocked off his feet by a blow I delivered at a distance of 10 centimeters from him. He received a warning for this. I lost and the crowd laughed.”

Muwanga’s associates will laugh at him because of that fight. This made him strive even harder to become a good boxer. Early on Sunday, he decided to go to the Kampala Boxing Club in Nakivuba. Muwanga writes: “I went to KBC in Nakivuba with the determination to learn to box or die” (Personal communication, 10 June 2014). The club was closed.

Muwanga returned to KBC early the next morning. There, fellow James Bond Okwaare made fun of the way Muwanga boxed. Okwaare was quickly reprimanded by national coach Erias Gabirali. Muwanga started training there when he met some of the national boxers who were visiting. They include Ayub Kalule, Cornelius Bbosa Bosa-Edwards, Mustapha Wasaja, Ben Ochan, Alex Adhiamba, Ochadomuge and David Jackson. Even Muwangi Nsubuga’s brother used to drop by. In his concluding remarks, Muwanga writes (personal communication, June 10, 2014):

“One day I was shocked when I heard that my brother was going to Scotland [Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, 1970] to represent Uganda. I couldn’t believe it, not only that the other urchins from the “village” were also going to make the cake sweeter, the guys from the neighboring slum that was Katwe Kinyiora, the team also had the likes of John Opio!!! There was justice in honest sweat, hard work and discipline… the rest is history.”

At the Edinburgh Commonwealth Games on 18 July 1970, 16-year-old Joseph Oscar Nsubuga (lightweight) was defeated on points by Olympian Kenneth Mwansa of Zambia in the preliminary round.

At the 1974 Commonwealth Games in Christchurch, the 20-year-old Nsubuga, now a featherweight, defeated Philip Sapak of Papua New Guinea. This happened in the previous first round on January 27, when the referee stopped the fight early after Nsubuga quickly overpowered his opponent. However, in the quarter-finals two days later, Scotland’s James Douglas defeated Nsubuga on points to end Nsubuga’s pursuit of a medal.

A few months later, in August 1974, Nsubuga, fighting at middleweight, won a bronze medal at the first World Amateur Boxing Championships in Havana. Nsubuga moved up to the middleweight division.

The TSC tournament was held at the Dynamo Sporthalle in Berlin on October 3-7, 1974. In the quarterfinals, Nsubuga, playing in the middleweight category, won by points over Zaprianov (Bulgaria). But in the semi-finals he was beaten by Peter Tiepold from the German Democratic Republic. He settled for a bronze medal. here the Ugandans performed a rarity: gold was won by James Adwori (fighter weight) and Ayub Kalule (lightweight); Silver was won by Vitalis Bbege (welterweight).

Nsubuga made his professional debut in May 1975, after which he moved to Finland, then Norway; he will mainly fight in Europe. Nsubuga retired from competing in 1981 after being knocked out by the famous future world champion Davey Moore. Nsubuga’s most significant fight was his high-spirited gladiator fight (non-title fight) with the famous Panamanian Roberto Duran on January 13, 1980 in Las Vegas. The Panamanian looked tired, but Joseph “Stoneface” Nsubuga was knocked out late in the fourth round. He retired from boxing in 1981 with an impressive record of 18 wins and 3 losses. Nsubuga died in Helsinki on 4 May 2013 at the age of 59.

During the 1970s, while at Namasagali College in Kamuli District, Uganda, Muwanga proved to be a skilled, fearsome and popular boxer. At the amateur national level, he is said to have beaten the famous future world champion and fellow Ugandan Cornelius Bose-Edwards (Bbosa) twice. In April 1973, the annual “Golden Belt” tournament took place in Bucharest. Most of the winners and silver medalists were Cubans and Romanians. Here, 17-year-old Muwanga took part in international competitions for the first time. Here, Muwanga, along with his Ugandan teammates Ayub Kalule, Vitalis Bbege and James Adwori, won bronze medals in Romania. Later in the same 1973, Muwanga competed twice for Uganda in two Urafika tournaments (Kenya v Uganda); he won. Muwanga was soon surprised when veteran Ugandan boxing legend Alex Odhiambo, who had been so critical of the younger boxer until now, gave him a nod and a thumbs up afterwards!

Locally and in training, Muwanga fought several times against Odwori and another famous Ugandan boxer, “Kabaka” Nasega, but did not win. Among the Ugandans he defeated were Vincent Byarugaba and several others. Muwanga’s stint as a national amateur boxer was from 1973 to 1977, when he was also a student at Namasagali College; after that he studied at the University of Oslo, fighting as a professional. Muwanga recalls that in a training camp where the behavior varied from boxer to boxer, as a prime example, the skillful Adwori was particularly talkative, while Ayub Kalule preferred actions to words (Personal communication, 29 October 2015 ):

“…guys like Ayub Kalule…preferred action over talk, which I think is a phenomenon. James Oduri talked a mile a minute but had a rare ability to back up everything he said. A very rare quality. We called him “Kasuku” [parrot] behind.”

Lightweight John Muwanga represented Uganda at the first World Amateur Championships held in Havana in August 1974. Especially Kalule and Nsubuga won gold and bronze respectively. Muwanga was eliminated in the preliminary round by decision of the judges on points in favor of Beihan Fuchejiev (Bulgaria). It is quite remarkable that six of the Ugandan contingent in Havana studied at Namasagali – one of the few schools in Uganda where boxing was practiced. In addition to Muwanga, boxers present at Namasagali included Nsubuga, Adwori, John Byaruhanga, Vincent Byarugaba and Shadrack Adhiamba.

Muwanga’s national stature continued to grow and at the age of 20 he was selected to represent Uganda at the Summer Olympics in Montreal. A majority of African countries, twenty-eight of them, boycotted the 1976 Montreal Olympics when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) refused to ban countries whose athletes competed in apartheid South Africa from the Olympics. The New Zealand rugby team was then touring South Africa. Countries such as China, Iraq and Guyana have also withdrawn; although in China it was primarily related to the problem of recognition of the political name – the non-recognition of the “Republic of China” versus the “People’s Republic of China”.

Ugandan boxers suspended due to the boycott included Baker Muwanga (lightweight) as well as Venostas Ochiro (lightweight), Adroni Butambeki (lightweight), Cornelius Bosa-Edwards (Bbosa) (lightweight), David Senyonjo ( lightweight), Jones Okot. (Welterweight), Vitalis Bbege (Welterweight) and John Odhiambo (Light Welterweight). None of these fist boyars represented Uganda at the 1972 Munich Olympics. Vitalis Bbege won gold at the African Boxing Championships held in Kampala in 1974.

Muwanga started his professional career in Norway in April 1978 and finished in October 1982. He mainly boxed in lightweight. All of his bouts took place in Norway, with the exception of the two finals, which took place in Finland. He hasn’t lost a single fight, but would probably like to be exposed to more intense competition and box in Western countries where there are more top contenders and champions. A factor was the ban on professional boxing in Norway, which officially took effect in early 1981.

Muwanga is undefeated as a professional boxer with 15 wins, 0 losses and 6 knockouts (Boxrec.com). He regrets to a certain extent that he did not reach the level of prosperity that he would have liked as a boxer, but at the same time he is grateful that boxing has led him to a place and opened him up to many advantages. He writes: “…my boxing career wasn’t as exciting as I wanted it to be in my opinion, but I’m not complaining, it opened a lot of doors for me and took me to places I never thought I’d see. ..” (Personal communication, June 10, 2014).

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