Uganda: Can the Three Bombers Break Bronze Jinx Against Rival Maghreb Opponents?

Some of the sporting codes at the African Games 2019, hosted by Morocco.

Kampala — When boxers Isaac Masembe, David Ssemujju, and Hellen Baleke return to the ring inside the Al Amal Indoor Sports Center in Rabat today, history will be their other opponent, moreover against Arabian adversaries.

Since Abdul Tebazaalwa and Muhammad Kizito won gold in Johannesburg 1999, no Ugandan boxer has ever reached the African Games final, which explains the Bombers' paltry four bronze medals in four editions.

In Abuja 2003, Jolly Katongole and Tebazaalwa's little brother Sadat got bronze. In Algiers 2007, the worst performance, ever, Uganda got no medal, while in Maputo 2011 and Brazzaville 2015, Ronald Serugo and Kennedy Katende got bronze respectively.

Maghreb opponents

After outclassing Equatorial Guinea's Raul Obama Monday night, Ssemuju faces Egyptian Ahmed Abdelmoneim, who edged Algerian Sofiane Tabi 3-2.

Abdelmoneim, 20, is six years Ssemuju's junior, with no notable experience. But Ssemuju must deal with the bias Ugandan boxers have against North African opponents that a Ugandan has to be exceptional to win a decision. It's why many deviate from their A-game and seek the usually elusive knockout. If Ssemuju squeezes through to the final, one of his potential opponents for gold could also be from the Maghreb--Moroccan Tarik Allali, who faces Kenyan Cosby Ouma in the other middleweight semi.

Featherweight Isaac Masembe has equally been brilliant, dispatching two opponents 5-0. "I'm going for gold," he vowed pretournament. "Bronze isn't fulfilling," he added after routing Carlos Semedo of Cape Verde on Monday.

He deserves the bragging rights. But in today's semis he faces a sterner test against three opponents: a slightly more experienced Algerian Oussama Mordjane, a cut beneath his left eye, suffered in a 5-0 victory over DR Congo's Rocky Bukasa and the natural bias against Arabic opponents. Handling all these requires strength of character and of course, luck.

Meanwhile, middleweight Baleke's long honeymoon is over. Eight days since she got a straight bye into the semis, she finally tests action today. Already assured of bronze, before throwing a jab, Baleke would wish for gold or silver. Moroccan Khadija Mardi, who beat Ghana's Ornella Sathoud on Saturday, stands in the way.

TODAY'S DUELS IN RABAT

Featherweight, 57kgs, 3 ROUNDS

Masembe vs. Mordjane (ALG)

Middleweight, 75kgs, 3 ROUNDS

Ssemujju vs. Abdelmoneim (EGY)

Middleweight, 75kgs, 3 ROUNDS

Baleke vs. Mardi (MOR)

BOMBERS PAST GAMES RECORD

1999: 2 gold, 1 silver, I bronze (medals)

2003: 2 bronze medals

2007: No medal

2011: 1 bronze medal

2015: 1 bronze medal

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