Ayub Kalule - One Of Africa's Very Best



Ayub Kalule was born in Uganda on 06th January 1954, originally fighting professionally out of Copenhagen, Denmark. In 1974 he had a very good year in the amateurs, lifting gold at the Commonwealth Games as a lightweight in Christchurch, New Zealand and becoming light-welterweight champion at the World Amateur Championships in Havana, Cuba.


As an amateur, he travelled to Denmark with team Uganda in 1976 and decided to stay put. He turned professional the same year, beating Kurt Hombach. Over a two year period, he amassed an unbeaten record of 20-0 (12 KO's). In his next contest, he challenged Al Korovou, the Fiji born Australian, for his Commonwealth middleweight title.


The bout took place in Brondby, Denmark and after a fourteenth round technical knockout, Kalule was the new champion. He defended the crown once against Reggie Ford, knocking out his opponent in the fifth round.


In November 1978 he took on Sugar Ray Seales. Kalule took a five-round lead, but he had to settle for a majority decision as two judges scored the bout in his favour and the third judging it as even after ten rounds. A month later Kalule was in the ring with Britain's Kevin Finnegan.


Like Seales, Finnegan had been in with Marvin Hagler twice by the time Kalule had faced them. The unbeaten Denmark native extended his unbeaten run to 25-0 (15 KO's) after winning every round on all three judges cards.


The victories kept on coming for Kalule, who travelled outside his adoptive country for the very first time as a professional, going to Japan to challenge Masashi Kudo in his thirty-first contest. Kudo, who was also unbeaten in twenty-three fights, was making the fourth defence of his WBA light-middleweight championship.


Kudo won the belt back in August 1979 when he outpointed the Nicaraguan Eddie Gazo. The southpaw challenger out-punched Kudo and staggered him a few times over the fifteen round course to pick up the crown by scores of 149-139, 146-139 and 149-145. Kudo, who never ventured out of Japan in his professional career didn't box again and retired with a record of 23-1 (12 KO's).


Fighting Sugar Ray Leonard


The new champion returned to Denmark, making four successful defences, before travelling to Houston, Texas to accept the challenge of the legendary 'Sugar' Ray Leonard. Both Kalule and Leonard could have met in the Montreal Olympics, but the African teams boycotted the competition. Ironically, Kalule would have been the favourite to take the gold (which Leonard actually won), but now it was Leonard who was deemed to be the favourite in this matchup.


Though Leonard was tipped to become a two-weight champion, Bob Arum, the fight's promoter, was worried that the proposed September unification bout with WBA welterweight champion Thomas Hearns was in serious jeopardy. "I don't want to take the blame when Leonard loses this fight. The match wasn't my idea, believe me," said Arum. "They made me do it. (Mike) Trainer came to me and said get us Kalule, Ray wants another title." Arum explained his concerns: "When I asked (Mogens) Palle (Kalule's manager) how much Kalule had to have he said whatever you want to give us. So I made a joke, I said $150,000. They said let us put our sponsor on the trunks and the ring posts and we'll take it.


"Why do you think they'd take such a fight for just $150,000? Because they think it's an easy fight."


"I'm serious," Arum continued. "This isn't hype. Palle couldn't wait to take the match. (Mike) Trainer didn't know what he was doing when he asked for Kalule. He's no boxing expert, he wouldn't listen to anybody. He thinks he knows it all."


Mike Trainer hit back by pointing out that he's just Leonard's business manager. When it comes to boxing decisions "When they (Angelo Dundee and Janks Morton) make a decision on opponents, I don't even get a vote."


The original opponent team Leonard actually wanted was WBC light-middleweight champion Maurice Hope, but it was reported that the Brit had priced himself out of the fight, even though Leonard would be getting $2.5 million.


To drum up more publicity for Kalule vs Leonard, Top Rank's press agent, Irving Rudd, brought in a witch doctor to Houston named Mugimba. Kalule wanted nothing to do with him. "I'm embarrassed. Why do they treat me like a fool? I didn't just come out of the jungle. Take him away."


Whilst training in Phoenix, Leonard sent out one of his aides to the local library to research what Ugandan witch doctors fear the most. The report back was that they fear the colour black and snakes, as they're too quick to cast a spell on. This is the reason why Leonar