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Boxing with Idi Amin

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Former coach Grace Seruwagi and Francis Nyangweso, a top sports figure then. “Of course, we had to fake a knockout. How do you beat a president?” Photos/MORGAN MBABAZI/FILE

Former coach Grace Seruwagi and Francis Nyangweso, a top sports figure then. “Of course, we had to fake a knockout. How do you beat a president?” Photos/MORGAN MBABAZI/FILE 

By BAMUTURAKI MUSINGUZI

Posted  Monday, August 23  2010 at  00:00
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As the president, you cannot open the event by boxing in the ring,” Idi Amin’s Sports Minister, Maj-Gen Francis Nyangweso, frantically tried to dissuade his commander-in-chief from precipitating what promised to be a protocol disaster.

“Are you arguing with me?” Amin asked, obviously angry.

“No, sir!” Nyangweso retreated.

That short dialogue, way out of camera shot, preceded what would be a dramatic and unprecedented opening to the Sixth All Africa Amateur Boxing Championships in Lugogo, Kampala, on December 9, 1974.

Without any warning, Amin, who was presiding over the opening event, decided that he would take on national boxing coach Peter Seruwagi in a curtain raiser.

The Amin vs Seruwagi match was not on the programme but in Amin’s way of conducting affairs, this was no obstacle.  

“Amin declared that he would open the championships by boxing me. The fight went ahead, ending in a knock-out in favour of Amin,” recalls Seruwagi.

Because the bout had not been planned for, Amin entered the ring with his neck-tie still on. Seruwagi wore a track suit. 

The Voice of Uganda newspaper reported on December 11, “President Amin, opening the Sixth All Africa Amateur Boxing Championships on Monday night, registered a technical knock-out over his opponent, Uganda’s boxing coach Grace Seruwagi. 

“The referee had to stop the fight in the second round to save Seruwagi from further punishment,” the Voice of Uganda added under the headline, “Boxer of the year.” 

“Lugogo Indoor Stadium went wild with cheers when the Ugandan leader entered the boxing ring. Cheers of Amin Oye, Uganda Moto greeted the General as he kept trotting with his tremendous footwork and jabs.

The General’s opponent tried to ward off the powerful blows, but not for long.” 

Immediately after the bout, Amin said he enjoyed sports and wanted to boost the morale of all boxers taking part in the championships.

He said sports, particularly boxing, were central in uniting people.

“Amin is a one-time boxing champion in East Africa and was unbeaten throughout his boxing career,” the Voice of Uganda reported. 

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