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Legend: How Isangura won gold for Tanzania at 1983 Africa tourney

By John Nene

Willy Isangura (pictured) was in a ruthless mood on the afternoon of August 23, 1983, at the Lugogo Indoor Stadium in Kampala during the finals of the Africa Championships.

I was at ringside covering the finals.

His three compatriots had all lost their bouts.

Flyweight David Mwaba was the first casualty, going down on points to Kenya’s hot cake then Ibrahim ‘Surf’ Bilali, light-middleweight Neva Mkadara lost to Zambia’s Christopher Kapopo with polished light-heavyweight Nassoro Michael beaten by Uganda’s Jonathan Kiriisa.

Ahead of his fight when I was preparing to do my preview of the finals for the defunct KANU-owned Kenya Times newspaper, Isangura minced no words on his intention to excel.

“Aisee mtu ataumia hapa, lazima nipatie taifa langu dhahabu (I’ll hurt my opponent, I must give my country a gold medal),” he told me referring to his super-heavyweight final fight against Kenya’s Chris ‘Marciano’ Odera.

Isangura lived up to his promise when he stopped Odera in the second round to give Tanzania its first ever gold medal and the only one so far in the history of the Africa Boxing Championships.

He was on top of his game, digging deep with body blows and rounding up his onslaught upstairs. On realising the Kenyan boxer was unable to contain the aggressive Isangura, the referee wisely stopped the fight in the second round to avoid a possible disaster.

Isangura’s gold medal catapulted Tanzania to the fourth position with one gold, three silver and two bronze medals behind winners Kenya, Zambia and third-placed Uganda.

That’s also Tanzania’s best ever position and performance in Africa’s premier boxing tournament.

Four years later, Odera avenged the defeat by eliminating Isangura in the semi-finals of East, Southern and Central Africa boxing tournament at the KICC in Nairobi. The Kenyan lost to Uganda’s strongman Dodovic Owiny in the finals.

The heavily built Isangura remains one of Tanzania’s most successful boxers. He also won heavyweight bronze medal at the 1982 Commonwealth Games in Brisbane, Australia, the only Tanzanian boxing medallist in the Games which was a feat of no mean achievement from the courageous Isangura.

As usual, like it happens elsewhere in Africa, the government, dressed in sheep’s clothing, will praise Isangura, promising his family goodies yet he was ignored when alive.

Another Tanzanian boxing legend, Habibu Kinyogoli, a bantamweight silver medallist at the 1973 Africa Games in Lagos, has requested the Tanzanian government assist him construct a gym at his Coastal home in Kisarawe District to groom junior and youth boxers but that has fallen on deaf ears.

They’re probably waiting for him to pass on and then come out with unnecessary sugar-coated messages of condolence.

Rest in power legend Willy Isangura.

Credit: Nenez Media Services

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