In eight days' time, boxer Sharif 'The Lion' Bogere will attempt to become only the sixth Ugandan fighter to win a world title.
Unbeaten Bogere (23 wins with 15 knockouts) faces Cuban born Richard Abril (17 wins with 8 knockouts and three losses) in Las Vegas on Saturday, March 2. At stake is the World Boxing Association (WBA) lightweight title. After one-and-a-half month of preparations for the fight, which was called off last November when Bogere tore his left Achilles tendon in training, the 24-year-old Ugandan sees the world title within his grip.
"I'm set," Bogere declared during an online chat with The Observer today.
"I have fully recovered from the injury so I am mentally and physically fit for Abril. The belt is coming home," affirmed the Las Vegas based Ugandan prized fighter.
Three days earlier, Bogere's camp was boosted with news of switching the fight venue to Vegas from New York. The move is an advantage to Bogere who has established a big fans base in Las Vegas, having launched his professional career there in 2008. Abril's last trip to Vegas turned into nightmare after losing to Brandon Rios on a split decision when they contested for the WBA crown on April 14, 2012.
Obviously, the Miami-based Cuban fighter will be desperate on March 2 to put behind memories of that defeat by attempting to beat Bogere. 30-year-old Abril has lost two of his last seven fights since 2010. After losing to Henry Lundy on January 22, 2010, Abril recovered to win five consecutive fights including his capture of the WBC and WBA interim belts later that year.
On October 19, 2010, Abril outscored Mexican Jose Reyes over ten rounds to win the WBC Latino lightweight. Two months later, Abril added the WBA interim (Fedelatin) lightweight title by stopping Miguel Angel Munguia in the fifth round on December 10, 2010. In 2011, he successfully defended both titles against Julio Comano and Miguel Acosta respectively.
If compared by their recent form, Bogere remains the overwhelming favourite to walk away with the belt. In the last three bouts, Bogere has lived up to his 'Lion's warrior stature as he stopped his opponents Francisco Contreras, Sergio Rivera ( both 3rd round) and Manuel Leyva (2nd round).
Muhammad Hassan, a renowned local boxing coach who handled Bogere during his amateur days at Kampala Boxing Club (KBC), predicts victory for his boxer.
"A boxer is only as good as his last bout. Sharif's record speaks for itself and he's unstoppable," says Abbey 'Arum' Mugayi, another local trainer/promoter who also worked closely with Bogere while at KBC in the early days of his career.
If he wins the WBA belt, Bogere will become the seventh Ugandan fighter to hold the world title. Cornelius Boza-Edwards, Ayub Kalule, John 'The Beast' Mugabi, Kassim 'The Dream' Ouma and Jackson "Action" Asiku have captured world titles before.
Coincidently, Ouma who happens to be the last Ugandan to capture the world title on US soil won it in Las Vegas when he defeated American Verno Phillips at Caesars Palace to win the IBF light middleweight title back in 2004. That's another factor which could lift Bogere to triumph.