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How Segawa punched his way to elite class

Sula Segawa (centre) after winning the WBC featherweight belt on May 6, 2023 in the United States of America

Sula Segawa (centre) after winning the WBC featherweight belt on May 6, 2023 in the United States of America

When Sulaiman Segawa disappeared into thin air in the Netherlands back in June 2016, he was probably viewed as someone that had brought shame to his nation.

At the time, the national boxing team, The Bombers, had travelled to the Dutch city of Eindhoven for the boxing championship there. The Eindhoven Box Cup had been a preparatory tournament for Segawa and company, who included Fazil Juma, Willy Kyakonye, Nasser Bukenya and Atanus Mugerwa for the final 2016 Olympics qualifiers, then slated for Azerbaijan in July 2016.

While in Eindhoven, Segawa and Mugerwa bagged silver and gold respectively, placing them in prime position, to make it to Brazil.

They would have joined Ronald Serugo and Kenneth Katende, who had qualified for the Olympics. Such was Segawa’s good form at the time, following his failure in the Africa Olympics qualifiers held in Cameroon earlier. Yet, Segawa went ahead to let the opportunity to play at the Olympics pass, and instead sought to find greener pastures, when he vanished to the USA.

However, seven years down the road, Segawa, is now a WBC-USA featherweight champion. This is after the 31-year-old fighter knocked out Mexican Misael Lopez on May 6, bringing his professional record to 15 wins, six by knockout, three losses and one draw.

Although this is just one of the affiliate titles to the WBC, which is arguably the most prestigious in world boxing, the bottom-line is that Segawa is coming of age. Ranked number 51 out of 1612 boxers in his featherweight division of 57kg, Segawa started boxing at the age of six years.

Having been born along Namirembe road (Blue Room), one of the outskirts of Kampala, Segawa was introduced to boxing at a very early age of four years. Emmanuel Mwesigwa, who is a renowned boxing promoter, recalls how Segawa used to tag along, whenever he went to the Kampala Boxing Club (KBC) gym at the old Nakivubo stadium.

“That is how Segawa picked up interest in boxing. His parents allowed me to introduce him to boxing. And each time he was there, several boxing bouts used to take place. Gradually, he started boxing himself,” Mwesigwa said.

Hailing from what bordered a slum area, habited by low-end communities of Kisenyi, Mwesigwa noted that his main agenda then, was about saving street children from being eaten up by the vices they pick up being homeless. So, a host of them used to sleep inside the KBC gym.

But by learning how to box, a fu ture in sport, is what Mwesigwa had in mind for them. Yet, it was a bit different for Segawa, whose parents, at least, were able to get him into school, and were apprehensive about boxing. They thought that the sport was for street thugs and, therefore, never wanted their son to associate with it as a career.

“Oftentimes, I went to train in total disguise. I did not want my parents to know that I was boxing,” Segawa said.

Yet, according to Mwesigwa, Segawa, right from a young age, showcased natural boxing skills. He was indisputably a top talent, seeing his footwork, speed, guile and punching combination.

Incidentally, Segawa, who studied up to A-level, scoring 12 points at City Secondary School Nansana, had at one time chosen to drop out of school because of his love for boxing. But this put him in trouble with Mwesigwa, who recalls having caned him, compelling him to return to school.

Segawa looks back on that time sheepishly, but admits that he decided to go against his family’s wishes, to pursue boxing ahead of education. Nonetheless, Segawa went through Bat Valley primary school, where he did his Primary Leaving Exams, before joining Bwaise Parents Secondary School, where he did his O-levels.

On the other hand, it is probably understandable now, why Segawa chose boxing, including going out of his way to get to the USA in controversial circumstances. It was all worth it as it stands now. But Segawa attributes his rise to the hard work he has put in over the years. His dream is to reach the top of his division.

In fact, Mwesigwa is in no doubt that Segawa will succeed, not only because of his boxing ability, but his good heart and kindness. Mwesigwa disclosed that Segawa supports many boxers back home by sending them money for upkeep and training ahead of their amateur bouts because he believes there is a lot of talent in Uganda that needs to be helped to climb up the ranks.

Segawa’s triumph elevated him to the elite class of compatriots Boza Edwards, Ayub Kalule, John ‘Beast’ Mugabi, Kassim ‘The Dream’ Ouma and Joseph ‘Joey Vegas’ Lubega, who won the prestigous WBC belts before him.

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