John “the beast” Mugabe (not to be confused with that crazy dictator) was a boxer and world light middleweight champion. Representing Uganda, he won a silver medal in the 1980 olympics. He grew up in Kampala, in a neighborhood called Naguru.
I, Danya Kaufmann, belong to the Naguru boxing club. And my instructor is a friend of “The Beast”. Which makes me… well, very cool indeed.
My friend took me here the first time. I was expecting a bunch of rich white women trying to jump up and down and call it kickboxing. I was [pleasantly] surprised when I saw a big group of sweaty, muscular, black men. (No that’s not the reason I go. Well, not the only reason)
It is so African – I’ve come at different times in the morning and different times in the evening, and there are always people boxing, people coming, and people going. After you feel you’re tired, you pay a little (to the very dedicated instructors) and you go. No pressure, no rules and, as always, no sense of time. And no deodorant.
Two people are boxing. A group in the corner is jumping up and down as part of some crazy warm up. One is jumping rope. Some neighborhood kids are playing with the weights. Everyone is yelling, sweating and smiling. Loud pop music (cheesy love songs are a favorite in Uganda) is blaring and on some days, rain is pelting loudly on the tin roof.
Welcome to my boxing club.