The scene was perfect. The lighting spot on, the sound loud and clear, every inch of Lugogo Indoor Arena occupied by a vibrant crowd. The undercards were good. And then the main bout, largely responsible for this record turn up, that had everyone on tenterhooks.
Meeting the third time in the Uganda Boxing Champions League, Muzamir Ssemuddu and Isaac Zebra Ssenyange had a point to prove. Zebra had won the first two encounters, though the last one at Akamwesi Complex on December 26, 2022 was largely controversial, triggering crowd chaos.
Finally, Ssemuddu—whom most thought deserved victory on that frosty night—won, also controversially.
Ssemuddu was as usual aggressive and took the first round thanks to good body shots. In the second round, Zebra’s left hook on the head knocked Ssemuddu to the canvas, though the referee did not count. After a rapid exchange that sent Zebra into the red corner, Ssemuddu paid back with a big right hook around Zebra’s neck area.
Zebra seemed to have taken Round Three, after which Ssemuddu showed signs of fatigue. But Ssemuddu returned stronger in the fourth, forcing Zebra on the back foot and winning that ferocious exchange in the blue corner early on.
Both started the fifth and final round aggressively, and after some dirty stuff Ssemuddu fell, awkwardly sitting on his right leg. He signaled to the referee before rising with a slight limp, but the ref was not interested.
Both had their moments in this round. Ssemuddu throwing the kitchen sink. But Zebra was patiently countered with his right, though his stronger left did not land. And at the last bell, Ssemuddu rested his arms on the ropes, breathing heavily. His fans, led by Ukasha Matovu, shouting crazy.
Zebra, all-smiles, fists in the air, posed for the cameras, connecting with his fans. His uncle Twaib Mayanja, in his corner hugged him. And fans hugged one another. Never stopped singing Mando, a nickname Zebra inherited from his slain father. They smiled and shouted. At the peak of their voices. Cocksure of victory, as the officials crafted the result. Then smiles became frowns and teary eyes, when Zebra lost 4-2.
“Lwaki Mutubba?” (why do you cheat us?) the ladies near the blue corner asked, aiming insults at whoever they suspected of being part of this ‘robbery’. Bottles flew into the ring area, threatening a repeat of the Akamwesi incident, where Zebra controversially defeated Ssemuddu on December 26, 2022. But Zebra signaled his agitated crowd to stay calm.
“I knew I won the fight but I got scared when they delayed to announce the result. I lost the first round but I won all the other four. The truth is seen, lies are told,” Zebra told Daily Monitor.
The lanky southpaw should also have used his reach advantage better to neutralise Ssemuddu’s power.
To most, what mattered is the winner. But a keen observer would ask: how come 4-2? If the five judges had scored the pulsating light middleweight contest 3-2 in favour of either boxer, how then did it become 4-2?
If you add the scorecard of the observer and the evaluator, it should be 4-3, capturing the seven scorecards. “The 4-2 was a mistake by the coordinator,” technical delegate Stephen Aciga-Fula explained. “The judges scored it 3-2 for Ssemuddu, then in a review, the observer and the evaluator scored it 1-1. So the result was 4-3. But the writer made a mistake.”
For Ssemuddu: “The fight was challenging; the guy has improved a lot, only that I am a hard worker,” he said. “Our game plan was investing in body shots and we got it right.”
About the fans’ fury, Ssemuddu said: “Even if Zebra had been announced winner, my fans would have rioted; actually it would have been even worse.”
He vowed to resume training immediately, ahead of the closing day on December 26, where he might face Broline Kibugwe, whom Zebra outclassed a month ago. “I need that belt, man.”
For Zebra, his league future is uncertain. “I don’t know, but you might not see me on Boxing Day. I am losing interest in this stuff,” he said.