Eridadi Mukwanga: Uganda's First Olympic Silver Medallist

Eridadi Mukwanga was born on July 12, 1943 in Kawanda in the Eastern Uganda region of Busoga, and died in January 1998 (or December 1997?). The circumstances and exact date of his death are largely unknown despite his enduring accomplishment of being Uganda's first Olympic silver medalist.

Eridadi Mukwanga, at only age 25, was recorded as Uganda's oldest participant at the Olympic Games of 1968 held in Mexico City from mid- to late-October in trying high-altitude weather. At the Olympics Eridadi Mukwanga, a 5'3" tall bantamweight, was in the second round pitted against 5'6" Ramiro Suárez (García) of Spain. Mukwanga easily knocked out Suarez, late in the second round. In the next bout Mukwanga similarly disposed of short 5'0" Romanian opponent Nicolae Gîju by knocking him out in the second round. Next came the quarter finals, and Mukwanga convincingly beat 20 year-old Roberto Cervantes of Mexico by 4-1. Similarly, in the semi-finals, Mukwanga outpointed Jang Sun-Gil of South Korea by 4-1. However, in the finals, against Russian Valerian Sergeyevich Sokolov, the bout was stopped late in the second round in favor of Sokolov. Though beaten, Eridadi Mukwanga proudly flew back to Uganda with a silver medal hanging from his neck.

The Olympics of 1968 proved to be the peaking point in Mukwanga's boxing career. The next major international boxing hurdle came with the Commonwealth Games of the summer of 1970, held in mid- to late-July in Edinburgh, Scotland. Mukwanga was eliminated in the very first round of the bantamweight division, losing to Joe Cooke of Canada by points on July 18. Joe Cooke would thereafter be knocked out by Stewart Ogilvie of Scotland when the referee halted the bout in the first round. But thereafter in the semi-finals, Stewart Ogilvie was stopped in the second round with the referee stopping the bout in favor of forthcoming gold-medalist Sulley Shittu of Ghana.

Ironically and disappointingly, Mukwanga was the first Ugandan boxer to fall in these Commonwealth Games in which Ugandans overwhelmingly established themselves as Commonwealth boxing champions. The final tally would include James Odwori, Mohamed Muruli, and Benson Masanda securing gold medals for Uganda; and Leo Rwabwogo and Deogratius Musoke claiming silver medals.

Thereafter, legendary Ugandan Mukwanga faded away from the boxing scene. And unlike his fellow Ugandan Olympic medalists, notably Leo Rwabwogo, John Akii-Bua, John Mugabi and Davis Kamoga, Eridadi Mukwanga after his losses in 1970 largely disappeared from the press and the public eye. He never turned professional, and anyway did not flourish in an era (1970's and beyond) of Africans joining the professional ranks. Sometimes Mukwanga was rumored to be a boastful heavy alcohol drinker. Even his exact date of death is not recorded. But the memory of Eridadi Mukwanga is enduring. The Mukwanga Memorial (Boxing) Cup is dedicated to his memory.

Jonathan Musere

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