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Uganda and the 1970 Dual Boxing Match-Up With the Soviet Union

On December 12th 1970, an international dual boxing match between the Soviet Union and Uganda, was held in Kampala. Uganda had become an established boxing powerhouse by notably emerging as the leading Commonwealth of Nations’ boxing nation. The Commonwealth Games had been held in July. Uganda’s boxing gold medal wins were courtesy of James Odwori, Mohamed Muruli, and Benson Masanda and the others were silver medals won by Deogratias Musoke and 1968 Olympic bronze medallist Leo Rwabwogo.

The population of the Soviet Union in 1970 was approximately 240 million and Soviet amateur boxers were rated as among the best in the world. The dual boxing match-up was intriguing given Uganda’s recent boxing victory at the Commonwealth Games; and the growing tradition of boxing in the two nations. The Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics was a superpower, while third world country Uganda had a scanty population of approximately 10 million.

The first bout was that of light-flyweight James Odwori who had recently won the Commonwealth Games’ title, against Russian Anatoli Semenov. Odwori is rated as one of the most skillful and most exciting of Uganda’s boxers. He won many medals and would represent Uganda at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich where he was placed 5th. This time at the Kampala tournament, Semenov was awarded the victory by points. Semenov had represented the Soviet Union at the European Amateur Boxing Championships held in Bucharest in 1969, but had been beaten by points by Roman Rozek of Poland.

Uganda’s flyweight contender Leo Rwabwogo had won a Commonwealth Games silver medal in July, and he had won a bronze medal at the Olympic Games of 1968 in Mexico City. He would also win a silver medal at the forthcoming Olympics in Munich. His haul of prestigious international medals is impressive, and he was one of the best of Uganda’s boxers during the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. At this tournament วิจารณ์มวย in Kampala, sturdy and strong Rwabwogo disposed of P. Ershov of the Soviet Union by a knockout in the first round. Ershov had participated in an International friendly, the Leningrad Tournament, in November 1969. He was beaten by points, by fellow Soviet Yuriy Fedorov, in the quarter-finals’ round.

Uganda’s bantamweight Eridadi Mukwanga became Uganda’s first Olympic silver medallist during the venue Mexico City in 1968. Unfortunately, Mukwanga was beaten by points in the very first preliminary round at the recent Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh. This time in Kampala, Mukwanga was again disappointing. He lost to Nikolay Novikov of the Soviet Union, by points. Novikov was placed 5th at the Olympics in Mexico City as a flyweight. Other merits include a silver medal at the European Boxing Championships in 1969, and the Merited Master of Sports of the USSR award.

Soviet featherweight Valerian Sergeyevich Sokolov was set to challenge Uganda’s Deogratias Musoke. Interestingly it is Sokolov who, as a bantamweight, had won the gold medal at the 1968 Olympics by knocking out previously mentioned Eridadi Mukwanga in the second round. In this Kampala tournament, Sokolov again established himself as a knockout artist by stopping Musoke in the first round. At the Commonwealth Games in July, Musoke had settled for the featherweight silver medal after being outpointed in the final by Kenyan boxing legend Philip Waruinge. At the summer Olympics in 1972, Waruinge would be awarded the silver and the gold to Boris Kuznetsov of the Soviet Union by points. Waruinge felt that he had been robbed. In the same Olympic featherweight bouts, Deogratias Musoke was disappointedly placed 17th after becoming defeated in the second round. The featherweight boxing competitors numbered forty-five. As for Valerian Sokolov, he is credited for winning 196 boxing fights out of the 216 amateur bouts in which he contested. In 1968 Sokolov was bestowed on the Honored Master of Sports of the USSR and the Order of the Badge of Honor in 1969. Fighting as a featherweight, Sokolov was placed 5th at the European Boxing Championships in June 1971.

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