Legendary American boxing referee Kenny Bayless, best remembered for handling the biggest fights, is set to visit Uganda to launch a fund for boxers. It is an unprecedented move that organisers hope will lift the image of Uganda's boxing greats, writes MOSES MUGALU.
Bayless will be in the country from December 11-13 to flag off a charity project organized by Rezlife church. According to Pastor David Kyambadde, a former amateur boxer, who along with his American wife Aimee are the event hosts, Bayless will launch the 'Beyond the Ring' initiative at their church in Lubowa.
The project is aimed at setting up a fund from which Uganda's current and retired pugilists could apply for assistance to pursue their dreams in fields such as business and education.
It's worth noting that a number of Uganda's boxing stars, past and present, are either in abject poverty or spoilt by drugs.
Apart from holding an envious list of big professional boxing bouts, Bayless is a motivational speaker. He is, accordingly, lined up to deliver a keynote address to the congregation in the main mid-morning service at Rezlife church on December 13. He will officiate an exhibition boxing match later on in the evening at the same venue.
His first activity will be on December 11 when he conducts a boxers/boxing officials' seminar. The conference is free of charge for all boxers and local officials.
Many Ugandans may have vivid memories of Bayless being the third man in the ring when Mayweather beat Pacman in May this year in what was hyped as 'Fight of the Century' during the promotions.
But the 64-year-old referee has also handled other high-profile bouts including Manny Pacquiao vs. Ricky Hatton, Oscar de la Hoya vs. Floyd Mayweather, Ricky Hatton vs. Paulie Malignaggi, Miguel Cotto vs. Antonio Margarito and Manny Pacquiao vs. Miguel Cotto, among others.
Based on his experience and perfect record in those fights, Ugandan officials are expected to listen keenly when he speaks to them during the conference.
Through the initiative, Kyambadde says they expect to raise more than Shs 100 million, which will go towards setting up 'Beyond The Ring' Fund.
In support of the project, Bayless is paying for all his expenses. Kyambadde is optimistic on working with institutions such as KCCA to provide land where they can build rehabilitation centres and erect playgrounds through the project once they raise the money.
"It's a very good project for our young people and for me, it's the only I can give back to boxing," Kyambadde explains.
Although he did not make it to the top, Kyambadde speaks proudly about his career as an amateur boxer in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He recalls getting into the sport as a 12-year-old during his days at Old Kampala primary school, Kampala High SS and Kampala Boxing Club (KBC).
He fought alongside former Commonwealth champion Godfrey Nyakana (now Kampala Central mayor) and current Kisenyi councilor Salim Uhuru. He attempted to pursue a professional career in the United States in 1992 but didn't break through.
"I never fought on the national team but the game of boxing opened many doors for me. Giving back is the only thing I can do," Kyambadde explains why he is passionate about 'Beyond The Ring' project.