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Ugandan sole boxer unyielding to poverty, aims gold
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For Ronald Serugo, the sole boxer of Uganda to fight in the Beijing Olympics, life is always hard, yet he always finds ways to fight through.

In an exclusive interview with Xinhua at the training base in Beijing on Friday, Serugo said that he was born in a poor family, and lived with his father and three brothers and sisters.

Being a construction worker, Ronald's father only earned about three to four U.S. dollars a day to support the whole family, so they had to pinch pennies everyday.

Luckily they had a few spare rooms to rent, so all the children used the extra money to have some education. But it's only Serugo who managed to go to university, and is now a sophomore in Industrial Art and Design.

Serugo said, "If he can't turn into a professional boxer, he will try to be an art designer someday."

Also a boxer, Serugo's father encouraged his son to practice boxing when he was 14. At first Serugo liked taekwondo more, and practiced it for some time. But after he was beaten hard by a fellow schoolmate who had been practicing boxing, he found boxing was a more powerful weapon in fight and decided to learn boxing for revenge.

As he was gradually making progress and enjoying the sport, the shortage of fund made his life really difficult. "It was an individual sport really," he said. "I struggled hard."

He had to make some equipment by himself. "I used to cut my jeans, put some sponge in the trousers legs and sew them, and used them as my boxing gloves," he said.

Unable to afford the gym fee for practice, he and some of his boxing friends often did their training outside their homes, on the open ground.

Yet poverty didn't crumple the strong-minded African. He managed to keep on training and keep up with his school education at the same time. After winning several medals in the national junior and senior tournaments, he was called in Uganda's national boxing team.

"Life at the national team is much better than before," Serugo said. "At least I don't have to worry about the funding, facilities and equipment, so I can concentrate on my training and improve fast."

Yet it doesn't mean their funds and equipment are enough. Due to lack of fund, the Ugandan Amateur Boxing League can't afford to buy enough boxing earthbags, "We have to queue to practice with the few earthbags," Ronald said. So the team has to use old tires as an alternative, because "it's cheaper, easy to get, good to use," he said.

Interestingly, both Serugo and his coach consider the tire as better training equipment than the earthbag. "When we hang it on a tree and hit it, it's like hitting a human body," Serugo explained. "Because the tire is soft, just like human flesh. When you hit it, just like you hit a human body's flesh first and then the bone."

"Also, it's softer than the earthbag which usually is too hard, hurting my knuckles and my arms," he said.

He also gasped at the professional equipment and comfortable services at the Ditan Stadium, the training center for the Beijing Olympic boxers.

"You know the ring? For us, to get a chance to get into that ring is before a competition. Normally our training ring doesn't have a carpet, so it's hard," he said. "I hope the ring at the Worker's Stadium is just like it here."

Being the sole boxer for Uganda at the Olympics, Serugo vows to win a medal for his country. "Everything is possible you know," he said. "I want to be a champion at this Olympics."

"My coach taught me some good tactics, so this time we'll have a big change of boxing compared to what we used to play," he said.

The Olympic boxing tournament will be held at the Worker's Stadium from Aug. 9-24.

(Xinhua News Agency August 1, 2008)

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