Posts Tagged ‘kampala’

John Baker Muwanga and Oscar Joseph Nsubuga: Two Uganda Boxing Legends

October 28, 2015

John Baker Muwanga, one of the best regarded of Uganda’s boxing champions, was born on April 2nd 1956 in the vicinity of Kampala, growing up in Nsambya. Joseph Nsubuga, another of Uganda’s renowned former boxers, was Muwanga’s older half-brother.

Equally unique and fascinating is how Muwanga started boxing, how he progressed, and why and how he hang up his gloves.  His pathway to boxing started when his half-brother Nsubuga who was born in Kenya in the early 1950’s showed up in 1963 at the family home in Nsambya while accompanied by his sister and mother.  The father of the children had been employed by East African Railways and Harbors where he worked in Kenya. Muwanga was delighted to have an older brother around. Nsubuga had dabbled at boxing. Soon, Muwanga would accompany Nsubuga to the Police Boxing club in Nsambya, a few times. But Muwanga was not impressed with the sport. Also, Muwanga’s mother would soon vacate the house, taking with him Muwanga and one of his sisters to live elsewhere. He soon ended up being a pupil in Mugwanya Preparatory School (Kabojja), a boarding school; and thereafter he was transferred to the sister school St. Savio Primary School on Entebbe Road.

At Savio in 1969, Muwanga ended up fighting a bully who happened to be the son of a politically prominent person. Muwanga was expelled from school as a result. His father was very furious, and assured him that he would never amount to anything. Meanwhile brother Nsubuga was making steady boxing progress, Muwanga got the attention for just happening to be the brother–although he was put down as comparatively weak and not  as tough as his boxing brother. It is here that Muwanga decided to try boxing. He was matched with play opponents, he was badly beaten and laughed at. People from northern Uganda were reputed to be good fighters, and Muwanga was discouraged from continuing with boxing on the grounds that such boxers would, “kill you for nothing.” But the taunting just made Muwanga the more determined to disprove skeptics.

Muwanga dared to enroll in the national junior championships which were held at the Nsambya Police shed. He would represent Nsambya Boxing Club. At that place and time, those days, medical tests were not up to standard and were not taken seriously. Muwanga was allowed to box. He was matched with an opponent Tilima from Naguru boxing Club. In the fight, Muwanga did not prove himself; his opponent who was much better than him did his best not to humiliate him. Tilima even pretended to be knocked down, even when he had not been hit.  Muwanga writes (Personal communication, 10 June 2014):

“What a show!!! This guy tried everything not to humiliate me but failed people laughed until tears run down there cheeks. The guy even pretended to be knocked down by the air of a punch I had swung some 10 inches away from him. He got a warning for that. I lost and the crowd laughed.”

Muwanga’s associates would laugh at him because of that fight.  This caused him to strive the more to become a good boxer.  Early on a Sunday he decided to go to Kampala Boxing Club in Nakivubo. Muwanga writes, “I went to KBC in Nakivubo, determined to learn how to box or die” (Personal communication, 10 June 2014). The club was closed.

Muwanga returned to KBC early the next morning. There a fellow James Bond Okwaare made fun of how Muwanga had boxed. Okwaare was quickly rebuked by the national coach Erias Gabiraali. Muwanga started training there as he got to know some of the national boxers who dropped in.  These inclued Ayub Kalule, Cornelius Bbosa Boza-Edwards, Mustafa Wasajja, Ben Ochan,  Alex Odhiambo, Ochodomuge, and David Jackson. Even Muwanga’s brother Nsubuga would drop in. In concluding words Muwanga writes  (Personal communication, 10 June 2014):

“One day I was shocked to hear that my brother was going to Scotland [Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, 1970] to represent Uganda. I could not believe, not only that other urchins from the ‘village’ were also going, to make the pie sweeter boys from the slum next door which was Katwe Kinyoro, the likes of John Opio were also in the team!!! There was justice in honest sweat, hard work and discipline…the rest is history.”

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

At  the Commonwealth Games of 1974  held in Christchurch, 20 year-old Nsubuga now a light-welterweight defeated Philip Sapak of Papua New Guinea. This happened in the preliminary first round on January 27th  when the referee halted the fight early after Nsubuga had quickly overwhelmed his opponent. However, in the quarter-finals that were held two days later, James Douglas of Scotland defeated Nsubuga by points and thereby halted Nsubuga’s quest for a medal.

Months later, in August 1974, Nsubuga, fighting as a middleweight, would win a bronze medal at the inaugural World Amateur Boxing Championships in Havana. Nsubuga had moved up to the middleweight division.

The TSC Tournament was held at the Dynamo-Sporthalle in Berlin during October 3-7, 1974. In the quarter-finals, Nsubuga fighting as a middleweight beat Zaprianov (Bulgaria) by points. But in the semi-finals he was beaten, by points, by Peter Tiepold of the German Democratic Republic. He settled for the bronze medal. here Ugandans performed remarkably well: James Odwori (flyweight) and Ayub Kalule (light-welterweight) won gold; Vitalish Bbege (welterweight) won the silver medal.

Nsubuga would debut as a professional in May 1975 whereby he moved to Finland then to Norway; he would mostly fight in Europe. Nsubuga stopped competing in 1981 after he was knocked out by famous future world champion Davey Moore. Nsubuga’s most signified fight was his spirited gladiator battle (non-title bout) with renowned Panamanian Roberto Duran on January 13th 1980 in Las Vegas. The Panamanian seemed to be tiring, but Joseph “Stoneface” Nsubuga was knocked out at the end of the fourth round. He retired from boxing in 1981 with an impressive record of 18 wins and 3 losses. Nsubuga passed away in Helsinki on May 4th 2013, aged 59.

During the 1970’s while at Namasagali College in Kamuli District in Uganda, Muwanga displayed himself as a skillful, dreaded, and popular boxer. At the amateur national level, he is said to have defeated renowned future world champion and fellow Ugandan Cornelius Boza-Edwards (Bbosa) twice. In April 1973, the annual Golden Belt Tournament took place in Bucharest. Most of the winners and silver medalists turned out to be Cubans and Romanians. It was here that Muwanga, aged 17, first participated in international competition. Here Muwanga, together with his accomplices on the Uganda team–Ayub Kalule, Vitalish Bbege, and James Odwori–all won bronze medals in Romania. Later in the same 1973, Muwanga fought for Uganda twice in two Urafiki (Kenya vs. Uganda) tournaments; he was victorious. Muwanga soon became overwhelmed when the veteran Ugandan boxing legend Alex Odhiambo, who had heretofore been so critical of the younger boxer, subsequently gave him the nod and the thumbs up!

At the local level and during training, Muwanga did fight Odwori and another famous Uganda boxer “Kabaka” Nasego several times, but he did not win. Among the Ugandans he beat were Vincent Byarugaba, and several others. Muwanga’s stint as a national amateur boxer were from 1973 to 1977 when he was also a student at Namasagali College; thereafter he attended Oslo University while he fought as a professional. Muwanga recalls that at training camp, where behavioral attitudes varied from boxer to boxer, as admired example the skillful Odwori was particularly talkative, whereas Ayub Kalule preferred action to words (Personal communication, 29 October 2015):

“…guys like Ayub Kalule…preferred action to talk, a phenomena in my opinion. James Odouri talked a mile a minute but, had the rare ability to back up whatever he said. A very rare quality. We called him ‘Kasuku’ [parrot] behind his back.”

John Muwanga, as a light-flyweight represented Uganda at the inaugural world amateur championships held in Havana in August 1974. Notably Kalule and Nsubuga here won gold and bronze, respectively. Muwanga was eliminated in the preliminary round by a points decision in favor of Bejhan Fuchedzhiyev (Bulgaria). Quite notable is the aspect that a massive six of the Uganda contingent in Havana had studied at Namasagali–one of the few schools in Uganda that embraced boxing. In addition to Muwanga, those boxers that did attend Namasagali included Nsubuga, Odwori, John Byaruhanga, Vincent Byarugaba, and Shadrack Odhiambo.

Muwanga’s national status continued to rise and at age 20 he was selected to represent Uganda at the summer Olympics in Montreal.  Most African countries, twenty-eight of them, boycotted the Montreal Olympic Games of 1976 when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) refused to bar from the Olympics countries from which athletes had participated in sporting events in apartheid South Africa. The New Zealand Rugby team was then touring South Africa. Countries like China, Iraq, and Guyana also withdrew; although with China it primarily had to do with a political name recognition issue–non-recognition of “Republic of China” vs.  “Peoples’ Republic of China.”

The Uganda boxers withdrawn from participation because of the boycott included Baker Muwanga (bantamweight) alongside Venostos Ochira (light-flyweight), Adroni Butambeki (flyweight), Cornelius Boza-Edwards (Bbosa) (featherweight), David Ssenyonjo (lightweight),  Jones Okoth (light-welterweight), Vitalish Bbege (welterweight), and John Odhiambo (light-middleweight). Non of these pugilists had represented Uganda at the 1972 Olympics held in Munich. Vitalish Bbege had won gold at the Africa Boxing Championships held in Kampala in 1974.

Muwanga started his professional career in Norway in April 1978, and ended it in October 1982. He mostly boxed as a lightweight. All his bouts took place in Norway, aside from the final two that took place in Finland. He did not lose any of the bouts but he likely would have liked to be exposed to more intensive competition and to also box in western countries where there are more top contenders and champions. A factor was the banning of professional boxing in Norway, this officially effective from the beginning of 1981.

Muwanga ended as undefeated as a professional boxer with 15 wins, 0 losses, with 6 knockouts ( He regrets to some extend that he did not flourish as much as he would have wanted to as a boxer, but at the same time he is grateful that boxing took him to places and opened to him many advantages. He writes, “…my boxing career, in my opinion was not as exciting as I wanted it to be but I’m not complaining it opened a lot of doors for me and got me into places I never thought I would see…” (Personal communication, 10 June 2014).

Jonathan Musere


The 1971 US-USSR-World All-Stars Track Meet at University of California, Berkeley: John Akii-Bua, Steve Prefontaine, Pat Matzdorf, Judith Ayaa, and Other Athletes

March 10, 2015

The US-USSR-World All-Stars Track and Field Meet took place on Saturday, July 3rd 1971, in Berkeley at the Edwards Stadium of University of California.

Very recently, on May 30th 1971, John Akii-Bua had commendably reduced the 400 meters-hurdles African record to 49.7 seconds in Kampala, and thereby gained a reasonably significant level of attention. But there was some skepticism about the timing and the track conditions, given that the event was contested on a somewhat unknown and unrecognized African track. Nevertheless, in Berkeley, 21 year-old policeman Akii was considered a major contender for the gold medal. The other two favorites were Wes Williams who was regarded as USA’s top contenders, and Russia’s Vyacheslav Skomorokhov. Williams had at the recent national AAU championships finished second in the 440 yards-hurdles  (which is four yards longer than the metric lap) in an impressive 49.3; while  Skomorokhov who finished fifth in the foregone 1968 Olympics had a 49.1 personal best in the intermediate hurdles.

Eventually, Akii-Bua of Uganda, representing  the World, won (50.1), second was University of Washington’s Jim Seymour (USA) in 50.5, Roger Johnson (World) was third (50.9), Vyacheslav Skomorokhov (USSR) was fourth (50.9), fifth was Wes Williams (51.0) of USA, followed by Yuriy Zorin (USSR) in 53.3.

Akii-Bua’s remarks are mentioned (AP 1971: 19).

“I have been practicing hurdles with both…right…and left leg. I think those who hurdle with only one leg aren’t versatile enough…. I don’t have any set plan to run so many steps in between the hurdles. I just go over them when I get there.”

In the men’s 4x400m relay the USA team (Edesel Garrison, Frederick Newhouse, Tommie Turner, Darwin Bond) triumphed (3:02.9); the World’s team (Alfred Daley, John Akii-Bua, Laighton Priestley, Garth Case) was second (3:08.4); while the USSR team (Boris Savchuk, Yuriy Zorin, Dimitriy Stuklaov, Semyon Kocher) was last.

Judith Ayaa of Uganda, representing the World, participated in the women’s 4x400m relay. This time, the USSR team won (3:36.0). The Soviet runners were Lyudmila Findgenova, Lyudmila Aksenova, Natalya Chistyakova, and Nadyezhda Kolesnikova.  Second an in 3:38.1 was the USA team (Esther Stroy, Gwen Norman, Cheryl Toussaint, and Jarvis Scott). Finishing third in 3:44.1 was the World all-Stars team of Ayaa, Penny Werther, Allison Ross-Edwards, and Yvonne Sanders.

Major highlights at the international track meet included the setting of a new world record in the high jump (7 feet, 6.25 inches) by University of Wisconsin’s Pat Matzdorf (USA); and a new national record in the 5000m (13:30.4) by USA’s Steve Prefontaine (University of Oregon).

Overall in points, the USA won, USSR was second, and the World All-Stars team was third.

Works Cited

AP (July 14, 1971) “For America-Russian Track Duel: U.S. Runners Weren’t Ready,” in “Odessa American.”

Jonathan Musere

Judith Ayaa: Outstanding Progress in the Breaking of the 400-Meters East Africa and Africa Record

March 10, 2015

Judith Ayaa was the dominant female sprinter at the East and Central African Athletic Championships from 1968 to 1972. During the same span of time, she was not only the 4-time 400m champion, but she also often competed in and won in the 100m and 200m. She won the gold in the 100 meters in 1968 in Dar-es-Salaam. In the middle of August 1969, in the same ECA championships this time in Kampala, she was victorious in the 100 and 200 meters and was part of Uganda gold-medal winning 4x100m relay team. Her victory in the 400m was a new Africa record–53.6. By virtue of this personal best time in 1969, Ayaa was in 1969 ranked amongst the world’s top 10 female 400-meters sprinters.

Because there were a relatively low number of women competing in the 400m at the 1970 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, only a semi-final and a final would hereby take place. Ayaa was on July 22nd 1970 lined up in the second of the two heats of the semi-final . She won in quite an astonishing time–52.86–a new Africa record. The time ranked her as eleventh best in the world in 1970.

The final would take place on the next day. But having been the fastest among the semi-finalists, Ayaa had perhaps ran too fast. She perhaps ought to have ran in relaxed stride, just fast enough to be among the top four of either of the semi-final heats that would ensure their qualifying for the finals. In this first semi-final heat, Sandra Brown of Australia finished second in a full second behind Ayaa. The first semi-final heat in which Marilyn Fay Neufville of Jamaica won in 53.05, was apparently one of more tactfulness and relaxation.

In the final, diminutive 17 year-old Neufville won in a world record–51.02. Neufville won by an astonishing over two seconds ahead of silver medallist Sandra Brown of Australia who finished in 53.66. Neufville thereby shaved of by nearly a second the previous world record of 51.7 set in 1969 by Frenchwomen Colette Besson and Nicole Duclos. Judith Ayaa, overtaken after slowing down near the end of the race, likely due to fatigue after her unnecessary exertion in the semi-finals, was third (53.77) in a photo-finish behind Sandra Brown and captured the bronze medal. The fatigue had likely cost her at least the silver medal; but the Commonwealth bronze would be one of Ayaa’s most cherished international possessions!

In 1970 at the East-Central African Championships held in Nairobi, Ayaa won in the 100-meters in 11.8, the 200-meters in 24.1, and the 400-meters in 54.0.

Ayaa was a competitor at the USA-Pan African Track-and-Field Meet held from July 16-17, 1971 at Duke University in Durham. She won the gold medal after finishing in 54.69.

Still in 1971, at the ECA Championships in Lusaka, Ayaa won in the 400-meters (54.7); and she was part of the Uganda gold medal victorious teams in both sprint relays.

Ayaa competed in Dante Stadium at a Pre-Olympic Meet in mid-August 1972 in Munich, a build-up for the forthcoming Olympics in the same city of West Germany. Also called the “Hanns-Braun Memorial International Pre-Olympic Invitational,” this track-and-field meet spanned two days.

20 year-old Ayaa, participated amongst the 3 heats of the women’s 400 meters. The top overall finishers would be signified. Altogether Ayaa’s time was second best–52.68–a new Africa record. In early September 1972, in Munich at the Olympics, Ayaa was again timed in 52.68 seconds when she finished third in the quarter finals and advanced to the semi-finals. She thereby equaled her personal best and Africa record. Ayaa would be eliminated  from advancing to the Olympic finals when she finished 7th (52.91) in a semi-final heat.

At the pre-Olympic meet in Munich, on the second day of the meet, Ayaa additionally competed in the 200-meters and finished fifth. Results were (AP 1972: 66):

1. Marina Sidorova (Soviet Union), 23.78; 2. Karollne Kaefer (Austria), 23.99; 3. Vilma Charlton (Jamaica), 24.04; 4. Una Morris (Jamaica), 24.11; 5. Judith Ayaa (Uganda), 24.12.

Judith Ayaa would fade away from the international competition limelight after 1973. The President Idi Amin Dada handed her the Uganda flag in her capacity as team captain for the national team that was bound for Lagos for the All-Africa Games in January 1973. She was expected to win in the 400m. But possibly due to injuries, sickness, or inadequate training, she did not compete in any of the individual sprints in Lagos. But she possibly competed in the women’s 4x400m relay in which Uganda won gold.

Much more had been expected of this young elite African athlete, one of the few African women to reach such a pinnacle during that time of the dawn of women power athletes. It would take three decades for Ayaa’s Uganda national record in the 400m to be broken. After more than four decades, the present Uganda record (52.48) by Justine Bayigga, established in 2008, is only 0.2 seconds lower than the national and African record that Judith Ayaa set in 1972.

Works Cited

AP (August 17, 1972). “Second Day of the Sports Festival,” in “San Bernardino County Sun,”  page 66.

Jonathan Musere

Vitalis Bbege: Uganda, Africa, and Germany Boxing Champion; and the Mike Tyson Knockout Image

May 22, 2011

American boxer Michael Gerard “Iron Mike” Tyson was born in the New York City borough Brooklyn on June 30th 1966. The ferocity and intimidating style of Tyson involved a series of rapid knockout wins that lead to his becoming the youngest heavyweight champion of the world in 1986. Ten years after Mike Tyson was born, a young northern Ugandan boxer Vitalis (Vitalish) Bbege, who had quickly acquired the equivalent of a national Tyson-like ferocious boxing image, was scheduled to represent Uganda at the 1976 Olympics to be held in Montreal from July 18th to 31st. Among the boxers on the Uganda team were future national boxing legends John Baker Muwanga (bantamweight) and featherweight Cornelius Boza-Edwards (Bbosa). Vitalish Bbege was scheduled to be Uganda’s welterweight competitor. Many African and other countries politically boycotted the 1976 around the starting of these Olympics. The scheduled preliminary bouts involving boycotting nations’ boxers were ruled walkovers in favor of the opponents of the non-boycotting nations. In retrospect, Bbege had widely acquired his national brutal rapid knockout reputation during the 1974 African Amateur Boxing Championships that just so happened to be held in Bbege’s Uganda home territory. The boxing tournament took place in Kampala in November. Welterweight Bbege quickly disposed of all his opponents by early knockout, save for the audacious and strong Prince of Egypt who persistently held on until the end. Young and relatively unknown Bbege was quickly in the books as Africa’s amateur welterweight boxing champion. For decades, his name has remained legendary in Uganda and as synonymous with not only boxers, but also with belligerent and hard hitting regular people. Bbege, as a welterweight represented Uganda at the Pre-Olympic Boxing Tournament in Montreal from November 27th to December 1st 1975. In the quarter-finals, on November 27th, the referee stopped Nico Jeurissen from Bbege’s onslaught, in the very first round. Bbege, in the semi-finals on November 29th, true to fashion, knocked out Leo Pelletier of Canada in the second round. But the finals, on December 1st, were not fruitful for Bbege. Bbege was defeated by Yoshifumi Seki of Japan with the referee stopping the fight in the first round. Bbege went home with the silver medal. And so did heavyweight Jacob Odonga, another Ugandan who was technically knocked out in the finals (by Hocine Tafer of France). The only other Ugandan contestant at this tournament was Mustapha Wasajja. He won the gold medal after outpointing Bryan Gibson of Canada. After the 1976 Olympic boycott, Vitalish Bbege soon moved to the then West Germany (Federal Republic of Germany-FRG) where they would be more lucrative boxing opportunities for him. He remained an amateur boxer and never boxed professionally. He joined the Sparta Flensburg Boxing Club (BC Flensburg) in the city Flensburg where he still resides and is a fitness and boxing trainer. Representing Sparta Flensburg (BC Flensburg), Bbege won numerous annual Schleswig-Holstein Amateur Boxing Association (SHABV) titles from the late 1970’s to the late 1980’s. In 1979, Bbege won the SHABV amateur middleweight (75kg) title, the same title as a light-middleweight (71 kg) in 1980 and 1981. In 1982, 1986, and 1990 Bbege became the SHABV middleweight champion. In 1984, 1985, and 1987, Bbege as a heavyweight (81kg), was the SHABV title holder. On January 30th 1984, Vitalish Bbege represented West Germany in a boxing dual verses the United States. He boxed as a light-middleweight and defeated Michael Cross by two points to one in a three-round match-up. Interestingly Bbege has a brother who goes by the names Vitalish Nyamor Bbege and was another capable boxer who moved to Germany. Under the name Vitalish Nyamor, he also represented Germany at the same tournament and as a welterweight defeated Alton Rice by three points to zero. It is remarkable that out of the ten bouts, the Bbege brothers won two of the total of four bouts won by West Germany. John Odhiambo of Uganda and legendary Kenyan boxer David Attan are some of the other Africans that boxed in the Germany Bundesliga during the 1970’s and 1980’s. John Odhiambo, as a light-middleweight, had been scheduled to represent Uganda at the boycotted 1976 Olympics. Vitalish Bbege and Vitalish Nyamor-Bbege, both regarded as Flensburg boxing legends, are well settled in Germany with their families. Offspring Dennis Nyamor Bbege is a boxer. Others of the Bbege descendants include Iris Bbege, Nancy Bbege, and Elvis-Aaron Bege.

Jonathan Musere

Ayub Kalule: Uganda’s Most Highly Rated Boxing Champion

May 12, 2011

Ayub (Ayubu) Kalule was born on January 6, 1954, in the Buganda region of Uganda. He was born to Juma Balinnya (a former boxer) of Kibuye. Kalule started studying at Kibuli Primary School at which he started boxing early, while only in the fifth grade. Balinnya did encourage his youngsters to be a boxers, although Kalule had never seen him box. Kalule began boxing nationally in 1971, through famed club Kampala City Bombers and through his high school Modern Senior Secondary School. In terms of length of world professional ranking, together with skill and performance, Ayub Kalule has endured as Uganda’s top boxer. Kalule will also, for long, stand out as one of the most revered as well as one of the most debated of African world champions.

Of significance, Ayub Kalule, in 1972, fighting as a light-welterweight, became the under-19 Africa champion. In 1973, Kalule in the semi-finals of the lightweight division, lost and settled for bronze at the All-Africa Games held in Lagos. Thereafter, Ayub Kalule had recently turned 20 when he represented Uganda in what was his first major international test…the Commonwealth Games held in Christchurch, New Zealand held in the last two weeks of January 1974. Throughout his career, Kalule was known for his unique right-handedness, in that he who would face his opponents as if he were a southpaw, or face them in what some boxing writers call a “square stance.” This was likely an advantage in his ascent to becoming world champion, insofar as he performed as an ambidextrous boxer who would continuously confuse and barrage his opponents with either hand. Because of his strong, solid, muscular body, Kalule a man of stamina was regarded as an iron man. His opponents would tire from attempting to pound on him and his advancing pressure of relentless arms and speed.

Ayub Kalule boxed as a lightweight at the Commonwealth games, and started in the preliminaries by outpointing 20 year-old William Lyimo of Tanzania. Six years later, by which time boxing professional Kalule had become WBA Junior Middleweight Champion, Lyimo would fight for Tanzania at the Olympic Games held in Moscow. Lyimo at 27 years of age would go past the second round, but would in the quarter-finals be knocked out in the third round by 20-year old Anthony Willis of Great Britain, and thus settle for 5th place in the welterweight division.

At the quarter finals of the 1974 Commonwealth Games, Kalule out-punched and bloodily disfigured the face of 22-year old Irish “Sugar” Ray Heaney who was in the fight given two mandatory counts because of heavy punishment from the fast and hard-punching Ayub Kalule. Heaney would later become a professional, but would fast retire with an undistinguished boxing record. At the quarter finals, Kalule was pitted against 19 year-old New Zealander Robert Charles Colley. Colley would be outpointed (and settle for the bronze), allowing Kalule to move on to the final stage. After being eliminated by Russian Valery Limasov in the first round at the Olympic Games of 1976 held in Montreal (Canada), Colley would turn professional. Though Colley’s professional record is impressive, it is mediocre insofar as his fights were confined to New Zealand and Australia, and Colley retired quite early…in 1980. At the finals of these Commonwealth Games, Kalule would outpoint Kayin Amah of Nigeria and therefore win the gold. Kayin Amah, who had in the preliminaries lost to legendary Philip Waruinge of Kenya in the previous Commonwealth Games (1970), would this time be happier with taking home a silver.

Perhaps Ayub Kalule’s most prestigious amateur encounter, would be the World Amateur Boxing Championships that were held in Havana in Cuba in August 17-30 1974. Kalule starred for Uganda as a light-welterweight. Kalule’s first bout was encouraging, inasmuch as he disposed of Puerto Rican Amador Rosario by points. Next, Kalule similarly outpointed Marti Kalevi Marjamaa of Finland. Tall 5’11” Marjamaa did consecutively represent Finland at the forthcoming Olympics, but was eliminated early in the preliminaries at both the Olympics in Montreal (1976) and Moscow (1980). At the quarter-finals of the World Championships, Ayub Kalule defeated Mark Harris of Guyana by points. Mark Harris was scheduled to box for Guyana in the forthcoming Olympics in Montreal, but Guyana became one of the many countries that boycotted the Games. Harris thereafter turned professional, but his record was mediocre, including being knocked out during his attempt at the Commonwealth (British) welterweight title. Harris was knocked out by Colin Jones of the United Kingdom. Harris retired from professional boxing near the end of 1982.

In the semi-final of the World Championships, Ayub Kalule was pitted against Ulrich Beyer of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany). Kalule outclassed the German, and won by points. Notably, in the previous Olympics (Munich, 1972), Beyer was eliminated by Sugar Ray Seales (eventual and only national gold medalist, during these Olympics) of the USA, in the first round. Later in 1978, as professionals, Ayub Kalule would beat Sugar Ray Seales in a 10-round decision. However, Ulrich Beyer would be eliminated by Sugar Ray Leonard of the USA in a memorable fight of the 1976 Olympics held in Montreal in Canada. The finals of these World Amateur Boxing Championships saw Ayub Kalule defeat Vladimir Kolev (silver medalist) of Bulgaria by a clear 5-0. At the forthcoming Olympic Games in Montreal, Uganda was not represented but Vladimir Kolev won a bronze medal.

Ayub Kalule’s next major outing came at the African Boxing Championships that were held in home territory, in Kampala in Uganda in November 1974. Kalule, a recent Commonwealth Games’ and World Amateur Boxing Champion, was expected to win. Kalule was not disappointing, winning the gold in the final against Kenyan Philip Mathenge, in the light-welterweight division, on points. Earlier, at the Commonwealth Games held in late January 1974, Mathenge had commendably won bronze in the light-welterweight division, falling to Anthony Martey of Ghana on points. Martey would go on to be defeated by legendary Obisia Nwakpa of Nigeria, in the finals, by points. Nwakpa is now a Nigeria national boxing coach.

Ayub Kalule moved to Denmark in 1975, under Morgas Parley Promotions. Kalule distinguished himself by winning against Delroy Parkes of England for the European Cup title in the light-welterweight division.

Ayub Kalule, rose quite rapidly in the world ranks, even in spite of his being based in Denmark rather than being situated the more championship-lucrative USA. Though Kalule turned professional in 1976, during 1977 he became the foremost contender for the WBA light-middleweight crown. Peter Heller in his book “Bad Intentions: The Mike Tyson Story” (1995: 142) writes that Ayub Kalule already top junior middleweight contender for the WBA crown, was from 1977 to 1979 denied a shot at the title. Although a champion was required to defend his title at least once every six months, the WBA did almost everything to keep Kalule from fighting the champion who happened to be a mediocre Latin-American fighter named Eddie Garzo. The WBA did not want Garzo to risk losing the title to Kalule. It was long after Garzo had lost the title to Japanese Masashi Kudo, and after considerable pressure was mounted on the WBA, that Kalule was given the chance at the title. Kalule easily defeated Kudo, and thus became Uganda’s first ever professional world boxing champion. But in order to sanction the fight, the Latin-American WBA president had requested that the Japanese promoters furnish his team of officials a long list of amenities in Japan (including luxurious dinning and hotel accommodations and seven round-trip tickets to Tokyo). The WBA has a long history of being presided over by Latin Americans.

Kalule’s fight against Masashi Kudo took place at the City Gymnasium in Akita in Japan, Kalule won the 15 round fight by unanimous decision. The fight took place on October 24, 1979. The win was quite lopsided and the scores in favor of Kalule read as: Referee Robert Ferera 149-139, Judge Harold Lederman 146-139, Judge Tim Kelleher 149-145. At age 28 and at 5’10”, a relatively young and tall Kudo would retire from boxing after this and only loss, ending up with a record of 23 wins, 1 loss, with 50% of the bouts won by knockouts. Kudo had previously, successfully, defended the WBA light middleweight title three times, over the 14 months since he won the title from Eddie Gazo. In addition, Masashi Kudo had held the Japanese middleweight title for several years, so his fame and his only defeat at the hands Kalule has actually made Ayub Kalule’s name quite infinitely endure amongst Asian boxing circles. Kudo is not regarded as a technically efficient boxer. Kudo virtually never threw a hook or uppercut, and he relied solely on jabbing and throwing straight rights. That, to some extent made it easier for Kalule to defeat him. And in retrospect, Kudo had originally been a wrestler, and he turned to boxing after failing to make it on the Japanese wrestling team to the Olympics of Munich in 1972. Maybe Kudo was in professional boxing by default, but was not really that interested in it. Even in the bouts he won, most were won by a few points. Kudo’s power was punctuated by his enormous amounts of stamina and strength, which enabled him to retire without having ever been knocked down.

Ayub Kalule’s defense of the WBA Junior-Middleweight against African-American Olympic gold medalist and superstar Ray Charles Leonard (“Sugar” Ray Leonard), is Kalule’s most internationally acclaimed fight. Undefeated Kalule had won all 36 of his previous professional fights. The fight took place at the Astrodome in Houston in Texas, amidst a capacity crowd, on June 25 1981. In the first and second round of the fight, Leonard was surprisingly the attacker of the solidly built Kalule. Leonard was certainly, faster and more agile of the two, this enabling him to penetrate Kalule as the champion worked to figure Leonard out. Leonard’s compact jab convincingly worked through Kalule’s defenses. The third round was different. It was revealed later that a left hook to Kalule’s head had resulted in the bruising of Leonard’s middle finger, a handicap that became permanent. The injury was cumbersome, but Leonard courageous attacked Kalule in the fourth round, even dazzling him a couple of times. Finishing Kalule off was the hard part, for Leonard seemed to ran into a brick wall each time he tried to finish Kalule off. The tough spirited exchange between Ayub Kalule and “Sugar” Ray Leonard demonstrated just how sturdy and unyielding Kalule was.

Into the fifth round, Kalule registered control, much with his right hand, and in the seventh round registered a right to Leonard’s head, knocking the challenger off-balance. Leonard recovered, but Kalule’s confidence blossomed. Kalule displayed more toughness in the eighth round, Leonard tiring with Kalule gaining the upper hand. Round 9 is interesting. The two boxers looked exhausted but determined, such that the non-stop and no-holding exchange that had continued right from the beginning of the fight showed no signs of abating.

The formidable Kalule continued to absorb Leonard’s faster and more accurate punches in exchange for Kalule’s bruising and ambidextrous, unpredictable punches. But Leonard did seem to sense that with the formidability of Kalule, the best thing for him to do would be to take the risk of throwing in a flurry of combinations that would disable Kalule. Ray Leonard apparently sensed that strong Kalule was also tiring and slowing down. Near the end of the round, Leonard unleashed a series of hard combinations that seemed to confuse Kalule. A flash right hand landed Kalule to the ground into a sitting position, an indication that he was not unduly hurt. At the count of six, Kalule got up, and backed up to the ropes of the neutral corner to further recuperate. The Panamanian referee who did not communicate in English, surprisingly, stopped the fight. Kalule appeared stunned by the stoppage, shrugging his shoulders and arms in questioning stance. There are claims of miscommunication between Kalule and the referee. It is said that the referee was not convinced that Kalule was willing or able to continue, based on facial gestures, but not on exchange of words between the referee and Kalule! It was deemed by Kalule’s team, that their champion had been unfairly dispossessed of his world title. An unsuccessful formal protest followed. But again, Ray Leonard was regarded as a small version of Muhammad Ali, maybe his successor in skill, speed and antics. This was American territory and Americans wanted famous and handsome golden Olympian Ray Leonard to win. Ray Leonard displayed the antics of Muhammad Ali, and was widely regarded as the heir apparent of, “The Greatest.”

Ayub Kalule had been scheduled to represent Uganda at those Olympics in Montreal in 1976 where “Sugar” Ray Leonard won gold, but Uganda became one of the many countries that boycotted the Games. The “Sports Illustrated” cover of July 6, 1981 reveals Ray Leonard in the process of landing a left jab to the chin of Ayub Kalule. It turned out that at the stoppage of the Kalule-Leonard bout, at 3 minutes and 6 seconds of the 9th round, the bout had unanimously been scored in Leonard’s favor: 76-78 by Panamanian referee Carlos Berrocal, 76-78 by judge Harmodio Cedeno, and 75-78 by judge Ismael W. Fernandez. Hence, even relative to the scoring, the differences in scores were too small for the fight to be easily and prematurely stopped. But let credit due be given to Leonard. He was the faster and more flexible of the two fighters, he landed more combinations, and he had moved up in weight to fight Kalule. This loss confirmed that Kalule had reigned as WBA Junior Middleweight champion for 20 months.

Ayub Kalule would unsuccessfully contest the decision that favored Leonard. In the September 19, 2009 issue of the Uganda national newspaper “New Vision,” Moses Mugalu reports on a recent interview (“Face to Face with Kalule”) with a 55 year-old Kalule. Kalule remarks, regarding the knockout at the hands of Ray Leonard: “I was shocked when the ref stopped the fight because I had beaten the count before the bell rang. I went to my corner for a break and was ready to continue fighting.” In much of the rest of the interview, Kalule laments his business investments in Kenya (neighboring his native Uganda which was not regarded as comparatively stable for investments) following, his retiring in 1986. The investments were disastrous and involved swindling. Kalule had invested with his buddy, former sparring partner, fellow countryman, and former highly ranked boxer Mustapha Wasajja who was a light-heavyweight. In the interview, Kalule mentions that he has children in Denmark, Kenya, and in his native country where he now resides and trains boxers. He was reconsidering moving back to Denmark for promotional contracts which he had turned down over the years. Kalule also lamented the sorry state of affairs of the sport of boxing in Uganda which he says involves corruption and bribery. Kalule says of Uganda boxing: “Real boxing stopped with our generation, the current crop of boxers have had a bad foundation.” About why his face looks remarkably smooth for a boxer, a face not bearing the swells and marks noticeable on many long-time boxers, Kalule tells Moses Mugalu, “I had a long reach. I used it properly to keep my opponents at a distance and I guarded well that’s why my face is smooth.”

Only three months after his historical battle with Ray Leonard, Kalule was back in the ring. On October 9, 1981 in Copenhagen, Kalule beat Spaniard Andoni Amana on points. Amana notably had an impressive record of 42 wins and only 2 losses, reigned as Spanish middleweight champion, and had unsuccessfully failed to capture the European Boxing Union title in just the previous fight against Tony Sibson of the United Kingdom. This was apparently the beginning of Amana facing quite formidable opponents, and Amana’s losses would continue to accrue.

A month later, Kalule challenged O’Dell Leonard of the USA in Randers in Denmark. Leonard’s record was mediocre (16 wins, 9 losses, 1 draw), the fight was scheduled for only eight rounds, Kalule won by points. Next, on February 26, 1982, Kalule would be pitted against France-based Jacques Chinon of Martinique. With a record of 20 wins, 20 losses, and 5 draws, Chinon’s record was not impressive. But he managed to fight Kalule the whole 10 rounds, Kalule winning by points, in Copenhagen.

On April 30, 1982, Kalule challenged American Oscar Albarado, the encounter again taking place in Copenhagen. Though apparently declining, the veteran Albarado had an impressive record of 58 wins, 12 losses, and 1 draw. “Shotgun” Albarado even reigned as world WBC and WBA light-middleweight champion for six months, from June 1974 to January 1975. He was moving into his mid-thirties, and he had boxed professionally since the 1960’s. Sadly, Albarado had lost his previous two fights by knockout. Kalule’s knockout of Albarado in the second round would officially be the end of Albarado’s professional career. Apparently, Kalule had remained very active, notwithstanding his loss to Ray Leonard. In his next professional outing, Kalule would once again challenge for the WBA World light-middleweight title.

Ayub Kalule was set to challenge young, upcoming and undefeated (10 wins, no losses) Davey “Bronx” Moore of the USA, in Atlantic City in New Jersey on July 17, 1982. Moore had won the WBA title in February 1982, wresting it from Japanese Tadashi Mihara by knockout in the bout that took place in Tokyo. At the time of the knockout (10th round of a scheduled 15 rounds), the judges each had Kalule trailing by a couple of points. 24-year old Davey Moore lost the WBA title to legendary Panamanian Roberto Duran, by knockout; after one title defense in which Moore had knocked our Gary Guiden. In 1986, in France, Moore was knocked out by American Buster Drayton who defended his IBF world light-middleweight title. There followed 5 more non-title bouts with heavily ranked and talented boxers such as Edwin Rosario, Lupe Aquino, and John David Jackson. The results were mixed. Davey Moore’s last official fight was with Gary Coates, in New York. Moore won by a knockout. on April 30, 1988. On June 2, 1988, Moore was apparently killed in his own garage, when he stepped out of his car to open the garage door. The car was running and was geared in reverse instead of neutral, the car abruptly rolled backward and pressed him against the garage door, killing Moore on the scene.

Next Kalule would face undefeated and future WBA champion, Jamaican Mike McCallum in a non-title but significant bout. On November 13, 1982, again in Atlantic City in New Jersey, Kalule would face a skillful McCallum who many notable boxers such as “Sugar” Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns, and Roberto Duran had apparently avoided challenging. But while McCallum’s amateur career is not as spectacular as Ayub Kalule’s, McCallum got better and better with time. McCallum represented Jamaica at the inaugural World Boxing Championships in Havana held in 1974. He boxed as a welterweight, and he was eliminated early in the rounds by Clint Jackson of the United States. Notably, Ayub Kalule as a light-welterweight became the first African to win gold in this tournament.

Kalule would also win the British Commonwealth Games’ gold medal, and the All-Africa Boxing Championships’ gold medal in the same year of 1974. Mike (Michael) McKenzie McCallum would later win gold at the British Commonwealth Games, held in Edmonton, Alberta, in Canada in 1978, representing Jamaica. Earlier on in 1977, McCallum became USA Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) welterweight champion. In the same year, McCallum became USA National Golden Gloves’ Welterweight champion. Again in 1979, McCallum became USA National Golden Gloves’ welterweight champion. In 1979 at the Pan-American Games held in San Juan in Puerto Rico McCallum was knocked out in the second round in the finals by Andres Aldama of Cuba; so, McCallum had to settle for silver medal. The last major amateur encounter for McCallum involved him in losing to New York Puerto Rican Alex “the Bronx Bomber” Ramos, for the New York Golden Gloves’ Championships.

The Kalule vs. McCallum fight was not a title bout, it was scheduled to last 10 rounds. McCallum overwhelmingly dominated Kalule. McCallum was slimmer and 2 inches taller than the stockier Kalule, McCallum was visibly faster and more agile and accurate in jabbing, and his continuous blows hit the head and anywhere above the waistline. McCallum took advantage of his long reach and speed, leaving a strong and valiant Kalule unable to reach him. Kalule also suffered an upper-cut knockdown during the preliminary rounds. Kalule kept being punched by “The Body Snatcher” McCallum, and in the 7th round was on the verge of being knocked down. The decision in Kalule’s corner was that he would not continue. McCallum had won by technical knockout by Kalule retiring! McCallum would in 1984 become WBA world light-middleweight champion, a title he would lose to Sumbu Kalambay (a Zairean resident of Italy) whom Kalule had defeated. McCallum notably became the first Jamaican world boxing champion. McCallum would later regain the WBA title by defeating Herol Graham who was the opponent in Kalule’s last professional fight. McCallum even became WBC world light-heavyweight champion, was later defeated, and later retired in 1997, aged 40, after an illustrious and excellent career of 49 wins, 5 losses, and 1 draw. Both McCallum and Kalule are ranked as among the greatest of world light-middleweight boxers of all time.

It was after an unusually long spell of nearly 18 months that Kalule was entered for a professional fight. On April 25, 1984, Kalule knocked out highly regarded and undefeated Jimmy Price of the United Kingdom, knocking him out in the first round in London. Kalule went on to knock out Canadian Wayne Caplette, in the third round in Randers in Denmark, in October 1984. On November 9, 1984, Kalule outpointed Lindell Holmes from the United States. Lindell Holmes would, after several spirited attempts become IBF super-middleweight world champion in 1990 with a win by majority decision over legendary American boxer Frank Tate.

The next significant bout for Kalule would be that against France’s highly regarded champion Pierre Jolly on June 20, 1985, in Copenhagen. This was a contest for the vacant EBU (European Boxing Union) middleweight title. Jolly lost, by a TKO in round 8, in a fight scheduled for 12 rounds.

Six months later, this time in Marche in Italy, Kalule was pitted against Zairean born Sumbu Kalambay, right in Kalambay’s adopted hometown. The bout which took place on December 19, 1985 involved two fine boxers. Kalule was knocked down in round 5 and in round 11. Kalambay was knocked down in the final 12th round. The referee Mike Jacobs awarded Kalambay the win by 113-114, the two judges sided with Kalule: 118-115 , and 117-114. Kalule had retained the EBU title by majority decision! As for Kalambay, he would in 1987 win the EBU middleweight title by beating Herol Graham, would even beat legendary American Iran Barkley for the vacant WBA world middleweight title, by unanimous decision; he would in 1988 defend against Mike McCallum for the same title, beat Americans Robbie Simms by unanimous decision and knock out American Doug Dewitt for the same title. Kalambay’s biggest humiliation of his career came with his getting knocked down by Michael Nunn in the first round of the IBF world championship match-up. “Ring Magazine” dubbed this, the “1989 Knockout of the Year.” To add insult to injury, the WBA had already stripped Kalambay of his WBA middleweight crown!

In the next year of 1990, Kalambay’s wins, in non-title bouts, would mostly come by knockouts. On Aril Fool’s Day of 1991, he again was pitted against his nemesis Mike McCallum for the WBA world middleweight title, in Mote Carlo in Monaco. The bout went the full 12 rounds. Judge Fernando Viso had Kalambay lose by 114-116, Judge Orlando Sam had Kalambay win by 115-114, and Judge Justo Vasquez had Kalambay lose 115-116. In their revenge re-match bout, McCallum had won narrowly. Kalambay’s next several wins included the defense of his EBU title against Steve “The Celtic Warrior” Collins of Ireland, the bout taking place in Italy. May 19, 1993 would officially mark Kalambay’s last official professional appearance as a boxer. He was beaten by British Chris Pyatt in Leicestershire in the United Kingdom, by unanimous decision, and thus failed to capture the vacant WBO (World Boxing Organization) world middleweight title. With 57 wins, 6 losses, and 1 draw, a man who challenged many boxing greats, Sumbu Kalambay will remain an African and Italian legend.

On February 5, 1986, Kalule was scheduled to defend his title in Yorkshire in the United Kingdom against Herol “Bomber” Graham of the United Kingdom. Graham stopped Kalule in round 10, of a scheduled 12 rounds. The loss of Kalule’s EBU title to Herol Graham officially spelled Kalule’s hanging up his gloves from the professional scene. It is of interest that Herol Graham, as an amateur beat another famous Ugandan boxer–John Mugabi in the finals of the Junior World Championships held in 1976. The loss to Graham spelled Kalule’s 46th and final fight.

In the issue of the Uganda newspaper “Bukedde” in the article “Kalule Ayomba” by Silvano Kibuuka (November 9, 2009), Kalule recounts that he had intended to retire after 50 fights, and that one of the biggest things he was proud of was that he never got beaten in the ring by a white boxer. Kalule left Denmark in 1993 and settled in Kenya where his business ventures failed. He went back to his his native Uganda, after several years in Kenya.

Later, in 1987, Graham lost the EBU title to Sumbu Kalambay (whom Kalule had defeated). Graham would also lose to Mike McCallum (by split decision) in 1989, in London, for the vacant WBA world middleweight title. After some victories, Graham would be knocked out in round 4 by Julian Jackson, in the bid for the vacant WBC world middleweight title, the bout taking place in Andalucia in Spain.

In 1992, Graham again lost to Kalambay in his attempt at the EBU middleweight title, in Marche in Italy. After some impressive wins and one loss to Frank Grant, Graham faced Charles Brewer of the USA for IBF world super-middleweight championship in New Jersey in 1998. Though Graham had built an early lead and even knocked down Brewer twice, Graham was eventually knocked out in round 10. That was the end of Graham’s boxing career.

As for Ayub Kalule, given his excellent amateur wins in his native Uganda country, in the east and central African regional championships, in the all-Africa boxing championships, at the amateur world championships, at the European championships, and the world championships, Kalule will for decades remain Uganda’s most accomplished and most decorated boxer. Kalule boxed during his country’s golden age of boxing and sports (the 1960’s and 1970’s), all the professional boxers (only four) who managed to defeat legendary Ayub Kalule are themselves legends. Ayub Kalule was occasionally denied opportunities for the world crown, by the WBA. Kalule’s willingness to fight any contender, above all, illustrates himself as a very dedicated and determined competitor who loved and respected his game of boxing. During his professional tenure of boxing while resident in Denmark, Kalule there and then became the most renowned migrant.

Jonathan Musere

William Dralu: Uganda Star Sprinter

May 12, 2011

Although Uganda has never internationally significantly nurtured champions in the short sprints, one William Santino Dralu achieved a reasonable level of significance in the realm, during the late 1960’s and in the 1970’s. Dralu has endured, for more than forty years in Uganda’s history, as a prominent Ugandan sprinter, more specifically in the 100m and 200m dashes, and in the sprint relays. Even after decades, Dralu continues to be an inspiration for Uganda sprinters. The level of international participation of Ugandan track and field athletes, continues to be disproportionately significant in the middle- and long-distances realm; leaving a dearth of athletic representation in the sprints and in the field events.

In 1969, at the East and Central African Championships (an annual track and field battle initially between, Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania), William Santino Dralu achieved his biggest international accomplishments by winning in the 100m dash with a time of 10.5 seconds. This meet was held in Dralu’s home country, in the capital of Kampala in Uganda. Significantly, in the same year, Dralu established a 100m dash national record of 10.1s, a Uganda record that has endured for four decades. The record was set in the Uganda capital, Kampala, on August 8, 1969. This was an excellent record, given that the world record at that time was 9.9 seconds. Prestigiously, with this timing of 10.1, in the international Track and Field statistics, William Dralu would be ranked third in the world in 1969 (along with Charles Greene and John Carlos of USA , Pablo Montes of Cuba, Edwin Roberts of Trinidad, Melvin Pender of USA, and Detlef Lewandowski and Hermann Burde of the German Democratic Republic). Hermes Ramirez of Cuba, and Valeriy Borzov of the Soviet Union, both with a personal best timing of 10.0 in the 100m dash were respectively ranked first and second.

It is in Pietersburg in South Africa, on March 11 in 1998, that Ugandan Moses Mila equaled the Uganda record by a hand-timed 10.1 seconds. However, on website, Moses Mila’s personal best is listed as 10.48s and achieved in Johannesburg in South Africa, on March 27, 1998. At the same track meet, Moses Mila, according to the, ran his personal best in the 200m dash, a timing of 20.63s, on the same day.

Muscular William Dralu stood at a relatively tall 6′ 0″. He was born on June 27, 1947, in the east African country of Uganda. Dralu’s achievements at the Olympics, held previously in 1968 in Mexico City, were much less flattering than his achievements in 1969. At the Olympics of 1968, 21 year-old Dralu was enlisted to compete in the 100m and 200m dash. As for the 200m dash, in Heat 5 of the first round, Dralu was disappointingly eliminated after running in 6th with a time of 21.38s. His personal best of 21.1s would be achieved in the following year of 1968. In the 100m dash, Dralu was similarly eliminated very early, turning out to be 7th in Heat 1 of Round 1, timed at 10.8 seconds. At the Olympics of 1968, Dralu’s ultimate performance rank is 59th (of 66 competitors) in the 100m dash and 36th (of 49 competitors) in the 200m dash.

The next Olympics would be held in the summer of 1972 in Munich in Germany. Santino Dralu’s achievements would, again, be inconspicuous at the Olympics. In the 100m dash, 25 year-old Dralu was seventh in just Round One (Heat 6), in a time of 10.92s. Even in the 200m, Dralu was eliminated from moving further on, after ending up 6th in Heat 6 of round one, Dralu timed at 21.87s. Significantly, Dralu’s performance at the 1972 Olympics, was generally no better than his performance at the previous Olympics. At the Olympics of 1972, Dralu’s final performance rank is 67th (out of 90 competitors) in the 100m dash, and 48th (out of 66 competitors) in the 200m dash.

The next significant international track gathering took place in Christchurch in New Zealand from January 24-February 2, 1974. These were the British Commonwealth Games which are held after every four years. William Dralu was part of the Uganda 4×400 meters relay team that won bronze (3.07.45), behind the winning Kenya team (in 3.04:43); and the British team (3.06.66) which won silver. The other runners in the Uganda relay team were Pius Olowo, Samuel Kakonge, and Silver Ayoo. This is the only occasion, so far, that Uganda has achieved medal status in either the Olympic or British Commonwealth Games.

The East and Central African Athletics Championships of 1976 were held in May of 1976 in Tanzania. This was a quite exciting duel between the participating countries, the events including many world class athletes. Uganda managed to win, overall, beating favored Kenya. In the 200m final, legendary Kenyan sprinter Charles Asati managed to ward off Dralu. Asati would win in 21.2 seconds, Dralu would be second in 21.5 seconds, and John Mwebi of Kenya third in 21.6 seconds. At age 29, this would be one of Dralu’s prestigious performances.

By participating, and even being ranked highly, at world level; and by emerging among the top sprinters in several national and regional events during the 1960’s and 1970’s, William Santino Dralu has maintained legendary national status as one of the foremost of Uganda’s sprinters.

Jonathan Musere

Abraham Munabi: Uganda’s Greatest Triple-Jumper

May 10, 2011

During the late 1960’s and early 1970’s an excellent student at the prestigious rigorous Medical School at renowned Makerere University in Kampala established himself as one of the top African and Commonwealth of Nations’ triple jumpers. Abraham Kwadu Munabi, born on 19th December 1940, was like Uganda 1960’s champion sprinter Amos Omolo apparently a late-age entrant to significant sports competition. Munabi was the biggest name and medal hope in Uganda field athletics during the time. The national record that Munabi established in the triple jump, still stands four decades later. But no, it is not for his athletic achievements that the world has mostly come to recognize Munabi. Dr. Munabi moved to the USA in the late-1970’s for advanced studies, where he was involved in specialized experimentation and research in reproduction. In the space of more than thirty years, Munabi’s name has appeared on a stream of research papers. Munabi is renowned as a fertility expert, a reproductive endocrinologist. A board certified gynecologist, Munabi founded and is director the Reproductive Science Institute of Suburban Philadelphia in Pennsylvania. Munabi jumped to a personal best of 16.11m and national triple jump record in September 1969. Here Munabi won gold in the triple jump at the East and Central African regional Games. The annual Games were held the capital city Kampala in Munabi’s native Uganda. Munabi’s jump-length win of 16.11m far surpassed the competition. At the same tournament, Munabi won gold in the long jump with 7.24m. Munabi would again bag gold in the triple jump at these regional Games in 1972, held in the Tanzania capital Dar-es-Salaam. The winning length was 15.40m. The next most significant international sports gathering for Munabi would be the Commonwealth of Nation’s Games of 1970 that were held in Edinburgh in Scotland. On July 24th, twenty-eight international competitors would interchangeably hop, skip, and jump in the qualifying round for the finals that would happen the next day. Munabi, with a jump of 15.51 meters, was placed ninth out of the thirteen finalists. The top five finalists were Australian Mile McGrath (16.09m), Samuel Igun of Nigeria (16.08m), Mohinder Singh Gill of India (15.90m), Australian Phil May (15.87m), and Tony Wadhams of England (15.80m). Despite his ninth place ranking, Abe felt he would ably grab a medal for Uganda. The finals witnessed Phil Gray (Australia), with a length of 16.72m, take the gold; Mike McGrath (16.41m) also of Australia, bagged the silver; and Mohinder Singh (India) was third after a jump of 15.90m. Abraham Munabi of Uganda was placed, a not too disappointing, fourth (15.73m). These Commonwealth of Nations Games of 1970 witnessed Uganda emerge, with an impressive collection of medals, becoming the Commonwealth boxing champions. Boxing gold medals were won by Mohamed Muruli (light-welterweight), James Odwori (light-flyweight) and Benson Masanda (heavyweight); and the silver medals were won by flyweight Leo Rwabwogo and lightweight Deogratias Musoke. In athletics, Uganda’s William Koskei (silver medal in 400m-hurdles) and Judith Ayaa (bronze medal in the 400m) were the prize winners. John Akii-Bua (400m-hurdles), aged 20, was like Munabi, beaten into fourth place. At the Olympics of 1972 that were held in Munich, 31 year-old Munabi (out of the competing 6 male and 2 female athletes) was Uganda’s oldest participant. At 5’11 (180 cm), Munabi was a relatively light 154 pounds (70 kg). There were 36 internationals for the triple jump competition that took place from September 3rd to 4th. Munabi ended up with a rather mediocre best length of 15.82m, and was placed 22nd ranked overall. Munabi’s foul in the Third Round halted his progress. For comfort, Munabi had beaten a third of the field. The Olympic medal winners were, respectively Viktor Saneyev of the Soviet Union, Jorg Drehmel of East Germany, and Nelson Prudencio of Brazil. Munabi was determined to win gold at the next All-Africa Games that would be held in August of 1973. Munabi was beaten to second place by Mansour Mamadou Dia of Senegal. But of significance Munabi had triple jumped to 16.26 meters, a national record that stands to this day. Gold medallist Mansour Dia had jumped to 16.53 meters, while bronze medallist Moise Pomaney of Ghana had achieved 16.09 meters. Dia also won a bronze medal in the long jump at these All-Africa Games. Also, Mansour Dia had not only represented Senegal at the previous three Olympics, he had also achieved the personal best and national record at the previous 1972 Olympics (16.77m), a national record that would stand for more than 3.5 decades. At the Olympics, Dia who is only a week younger than Munabi was overall 13th in 1964, 8th in 1968, and 6th in 1972. The overall Uganda performance at the All-Africa Games was excellent, with boxers and athletes winning an impressive number of medals that Uganda has never come close to winning in the Africa Games since the 1973 performance (8 gold, 6 silver, 6 bronze). Uganda was sixth overall. In the next year, Munabi would have competed for Uganda at the Commonwealth Games that were held in Christchurch in New Zealand. One of his impediments were the trying finals he had to attend to in his Medicine program at Makerere University. Munabi finished 6th in the triple jump at the 1976 Montreal pre-Olympic meet. Joshua Owusu (also Commonwealth of Nations Games’ champion) of Ghana here won the gold. In the journal “Africa” (1976: 142) Munabi, now aged 34, is described as having slim hopes of winning an Olympic medal for Africa, but as being a major inspiration for the future of field athletics in Uganda. Indeed, at that time, it was Munabi who was Uganda’s field athletics’ top hit. At the same pre-Olympic meet, Ugandan boxer, Mustapha Wasajja, later to turn professional and become a top-ranked world fighter, won Uganda’s lone gold. Unfortunately, Uganda, as did many other countries, boycotted and withdrew from the Olympic Games that would soon take place in Montreal. The tradition of sports and academic excellence prevails in the Munabi family. Son Tunji Adrian Munabi was a student and all round-athlete at prestigious Stanford University in Palo Alto in California. Tunji was a top goal-scorer for the Stanford Cardinals, also a triple jump and long jump champion. But the son has not smashed the family triple-jump and long-jump records that the father established. Naikhoba another excellent student and athlete, the sister of Tunji, recently joined Stanford and competes in the triple jump. As for Uganda, recent accolades and hope in the triple jump competition come by way of Sarah Nambawa (a track and field athlete) who in the last couple of years has become triple jump Africa champion (Nairobi, August 2010), established a Uganda record (13.95m), and was placed fifth at the Commonwealth Games of 2010 that were held in New Delhi. Earlier the 2010 IAAF/VTB Bank Continental Cup held in Split in Croatia in early September 2010, against imposing international competition Uganda’s Nambawa finished 6th with her 13.78m jump. Also, earlier, competing for Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, in June 2010, Nambawa’s leap of 13.66m at the NCAA Outdoor Championships that were held in Eugene in Oregon placed her as 2nd overall. There is ample room for Nambawa to ably displace “Abe” as Uganda’s greatest triple jumper. Nambawa is certainly the most appropriate athlete to rekindle our memories of the sports achievements of Abraham Munabi.

Jonathan Musere