With live coverage on NTV, the local boxing fraternity started the day on a bright note but Saturday night turned disastrous for the sport as fans rioted at Lugogo Indoor Stadium arena to stop the controversial fight between Isaac 'Zebra' Ssenyange and Haruna Hassan Ddiba 'Banabana,' write Moses Mugalu and Elly Kyeyune.
There were chaotic scenes as rowdy fans pelted objects into the ring while others in the audience engaged in scuffles after the fifth of the ten-round scheduled middleweight bout. The ugly scenes erupted after Benjamin Mukasa, vice president (technical) of sanctioning body, Uganda Boxing Union (UBU), stepped into the ring to cancel the fight.
Mukasa's announcement, prompted by the fact that referee Daniel Kasole had failed to disqualify Banabana for two professional fouls (a low blow and head butt), meant the fight should be declared a technical draw. But Mukasa had no chance to declare such a result as missiles started flying into the ring and hell broke loose.
In the ensuing commotion, one of Banabana's corner men, Edwin Ssemanda, sustained a deep cut and bled profusely after an object hit him on the head. One of the fight organizers, Geoffrey Kasule admits the security got overwhelmed by the highly-charged fans that forced their way to the ringside and beat up the judges.
Kasule argues that such incidents are 'normal in sports because they have happened before in the US and Europe where standards are set.' He singles out infamous melees involving American super fighter Floyd Mayweather Jnr and Zab Judah in 2006 and recently, Britons David Haye and Dereck Chisora.
Kasule has hinted on a prospective rematch between Zebra and Banabana. And, he assures that if the fight happens, as is expected to, safety will be their top priority. That said, the chaotic incidents were an embarrassment to both the UPDF and Police, the top security institutions, who backed either fighter.
It's worth noting that before the madness in the fifth round, it was more of a brawling contest than boxing in the ring. There was a lot of holding, pushing and slaps in the early rounds. That probably explains why fans become so emotional and incensed because they expected the fight to be as entertaining as fighters had vowed to teach each other boxing lessons.