Kampala — Peter Grace Sseruwagi, the most celebrated boxing coach in Uganda, died this morning. Sseruwagi passed at Nsambya Hospital where, according to family members, he was battling diabetes.
Sseruwagi enjoyed an incredible boxing career that left its mark on many. The legendary coach got his start in boxing at Kyambogo College. This led to him joining the famed Kampala Boxing Club (KBC) in 1956.
In 1958, Sseruwagi knocked out rival Idi Amin Dada during the National Open trials held at Nakawa. Sseruwagi represented Kyambogo, while Amin repped the Army Boxing Club.
Sseruwagi’s first major event was the 1958 Commonwealth Games in Cardiff, Wales, where he failed to shed 10kg to fit into the Lightweight category (then measured at 30kg).
During the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome, Sseruwagi knocked out all his opponents to the semi-final stage, but lost to an American.
Before the games, Muhammad Ali, then Cassius Clay, asked to have a sparring session with Sseruwagi.
“Ali had heard about Ugandan boxers. So he asked Coach (Tom) Kawere for a chance to train with us. When he shook my hands, he felt the power and asked to spar with me first. But he was a monster; I couldn’t keep up with him. Then he went on to George Oywello and Peter Odhiambo. Angelo Dundee, Ali’s coach, praised us for helping Ali to win the light heavyweight gold medal,” Sseruwagi told AllAfrica.com’s Swaib Raul Kanyike back in 2016.
After the Olympics, Sseruwagi retired and took up the national team coaching reigns. In 1962, he joined Kilembe Mines Boxing Club as a coach.
His first taste of success as national team coach came in the 1962 Commonwealth Games in Perth, Australia. At those games, George Oywello, Francis Nyangweso, Kesi Odong, John Ssentongo, Peter Odhiambo and John Sentongo all won medals.
During the 1966 Commonwealth Games in Kingston, Jamaica, Sseruwagi coached Uganda to bronze medals won by John Ssentongo, Mathias Ouma and Ben Ochan.
During the inaugural World Championships in Cuba, Sseruwagi was in the corner as Ayub Kalule and Joseph Nsubuga won gold and bronze respectively.
He would go on to lead Uganda to many medals in various tournaments across the world, including the King’s Cup, All Africa Games, Commonwealth Games, Urafiki Games and many others. Burial arrangements were yet to be released by press time.