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Odeke left with many questions after KO defeat

As he recovers from last Saturday’s sixth round knockout defeat to Iranian Sayeb Abbas, Ugandan heavyweight boxer Kenneth “Mr Bad News” Odeke has his managers in the spot, writes Moses Mugalu.

The hitherto unbeaten and promising Odeke has left local fight fans with pertinent questions on whether he was rushed, the technical ability of his trainers, quality of his previous opponents and his boxing skill. Going into the bout against Abbas for the World Boxing Forum (WBF) title, 22-year-old Odeke had convinced as many fans that he’s new found real deal of Ugandan boxing.

But as a start-up fighter, Odeke’s record of mere three wins over little known opponents warranted caution for such over expectant fans. His victims included Tanzanian Ashraf Suleiman, Kenya’s James Ololo and Kenneth Ayolo, all stopped before the fourth round. As many pundits argue that it was too early for Odeke to challenge for a global title. He needed at least ten fights to gain experience and accumulate more rounds.

Justin Juuko, a retired professional fighter and former Commonwealth champion, says organisers of this fight are spoiling upcoming boxers’ confidence and whoever sanctioned this fight should be suspended. “What sort of managers are those? How can you put a three-fight novice in a 12-round fight? Juuko wonders. “It’s like letting a primary school kid sit O level exams,” he adds

Abbey ‘Arum’ Mugayi, an experienced trainer, promoter and matchmaker attached to the Uganda Professional Boxing Commission (UPBC), concurs. “You don’t mach a boxer with three bouts to fight for a title; that’s a mismatch. It seems they want boxers to die in the ring,” Mugayi charges.

However, Mugayi and his UPBC executive colleagues are grossly blamed for what happened to Odeke on Saturday night. Odeke’s camp has claimed politics and administrative wrangles in the local sport distracted their fighter. Emmanuel Mwesigwa, Odeke’s promoter and one of the fight organizers, claims his fighter received disturbing calls from UPBC officials informing the bout had been cancelled.

“He (Odeke) was disturbed by calls from our rivals and that’s why he got a brain lock once he stepped in the ring. They kept on telling him that the fight was not going to happen and as a fighter that affected him mentally and physically,” Mwesigwa claimed in an interview early this week.

UPBC officials insist that Mwesigwa, who is head of their rival sanctioning body, Uganda Boxing Union (UBU), illegitimately organized the fight. But they strongly dismiss Mwesigwa’s claims of making calls to distract Odeke. It is worth noting that UPBC and UBU administrative wrangles have escalated since last year, with the former claiming to be the only recorganised body with powers to sanction professional bouts in Uganda.

Mwesigwa insists UBU will continue sanctioning events because “we are doing it for the good and development of boxing the country.”

Accordingly, Mwesigwa declared on Monday that Odeke would return to the ring in two months on another UBU-organized card.

“He’s set to resume training on Wednesday (today) to correct the mistakes you saw when he was in the ring last Saturday,” Mwesigwa said, disclosing further that they also plan to hire an experienced trainer from London to help Odeke’s current team.

Former professional fighter and now Kampala Central mayor Godfrey Nyakana has also offered to give Odeke tips. John Ssemanda, who is Odeke’s current trainer, was clearly overwhelmed and his inexperience came to the fore last weekend as the heavyweight fighter lost control of the bout.

That said, Odeke possesses the rare skill (including his better reach) which should be nurtured if he’s to rule the heavyweight division where power and aggression dominate.

mugalu@observer.ug

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