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Mustafa Wasajja


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One of the "Afro-Danes" that became rather famous at the boxing scene of late 70's and early 80's, like his more famous fellow Ugandan Ayub Kalule, Wasajja fought out of Denmark as a pro. Although his pro career lasted only 6 years, Wasajja defeated some notable fighters, like an over the hill Bob Foster, Bunny Johnson, Jesse Burnett, Bunny Sterling, Jerry Celestine, Dennis Andries, Avenemar Peralta and Tom Collins. Like Kalule, he was more a boxer than a puncher and scored his most famous stoppage wins-over Foster and Johnson, by way of injury or corner retirement. He was described as tall (although its not listed just how tall he was) southpaw who was tricky to fight, just like Kalule. In 1982, he got to fight for a world title against Michael Spinks.

But before we get there, first a little about his beginnings. He was born 16 July 1953 in the outskirts of Kampala, Ugandan capital. Due to a lack of fees, he was forced to drop out of school while still in primary school. He eventually started training boxing, around the age of 17 or 18, and his trainer David Jenkins saw potential in him. He first competed at the 1974 Commonwealth Games and went out in the quarter final. He however won gold at the African Games that same year, fighting as a middleweight. However, he could not compete at the 1976 Olympics because of his country's boycott of it, in protest of New Zealand playing rugby matches in South Africa. He then just followed in his countryman and colleague Kalule's footsteps and went to Denmark to sign with promoter Mogens Palle, Scandinavia's only major promoter at the time.

He had his first fight there on 31 March '77 and won by KO 2 against Mariano Perez Hidalgo. He competed as a light heavy as a pro and in his third fight drew in his first fight against Avenemar Peralta, in a 6-rounder. He then beat future actor Rab Affleck of Scotland on points and Bunny Sterling, former Commonwealth middle champion, also on points. He also beat the dangerous punching journeyman Tom Bethea on points after that. On 9 February '78, he was matched against Bob Foster, who was no longer the champion at that point and had returned to 175 after unsuccessful campaigning as a heavyweight. Wasajja delighted the crowd at Idrætsparken in Copenhagen by dominating Foster before he quit after 5 rounds, to the loud boos of the crowd, claiming he had injured his left hand. On 25 May same year, Wasajja also beat the solid American contender Jesse Burnett by PTS 10 and then stopped Bunny Johnson by TKO 6 on 15 February next year, due to a bad cut. 

He took on Jerry Celestine, a dangerous puncher who would later fight both Michael Spinks and Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, on 15 March and beat him impressively on points in 8 rounds. He then faced Avenemar Peralta again on 29 February '80 and this time beat him by PTS 8. Only 2 months later, he also beat Dennis Andries that same way. After also decisioning hard hitting Tom Collins, Wasajja was 24-0-1 and ready to challenge the best light heavy in the world: Michael Spinks. Even though Spinks wasn't yet officially recognized as THE best, he would become that a year later, when he beat Dwight Muhammad Qawi. Wasajja went to the States to fight the tall 6'2 and hard-hitting, as well as technically sound and fast Spinks. They faced off on 13 February '82 at Playboy Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City and Spinks simply proved to be too much of everything for Wasajja, who was tall, technically sound, but lacked the power and the same kind of speed. After 5 rounds, Spinks was clearly ahead when he stopped Wasajja at 1:36 of the 6th after stopping him against the ropes with a series of hard punches. 

It was a devastating defeat for Wasajja, one he would never recover from. He was back in the ring 4 months later against Australian puncher Tony Mundine but lost to him on points in 10 rounds in Marseille, France. On 15 March next year, he had his last fight when he was stopped by Lottie Mwale by a TKO 3 in a fight for African Boxing Union and Commonwealth titles, in Lusaka, Zambia. He retired after a too-brief career and left behind a record of 24 wins, 7 by ko, 3 losses and 1 draw. He moved to Nairobi in Kenya for a while not long before retirement, but he was involved in a fatal accident there which killed several people, which then made him move back to Copenhagen. In 1985, he moved back to Uganda and opened a boxing gym, becoming a trainer. Everything went well for him until 2000, when he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. This made some of his closest friends turn their backs on him, but he had his family and coped somehow. He died on 27 April 2009, at the age of 55. He left behind a daughter, while another daughter died. 

Mustafa Wasajja was a technically capable and hardy fighter, but his lack of power debilitated him seriously in a time where guys like Spinks, Qawi and Saad Muhammad ruled the division. He also didn't take setbacks well, obviously, which is a shame because he obviously had enough talent to achieve something. However, the light heavyweight division back then was ruled with an iron fist by Michael Spinks and would be for a while. Pure boxers like Wasajja had no future in a more aggressive-minded American-dominated sport. Thank you.



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