“I have watched him four times in Vegas and he seems to possess the potential to go far. He’s got speed and agility with some pomp. He is very agile,” legendary Mike Tyson told BoxingScene in recognition of Sharif Bogere, who was wowing crowds in the US, not only with his grand ring entry—in a cage and wearing a lion’s skin (inset on main photo) —but also with his fine ring craft and charisma.
Tyson’s prophecy held much water as Bogere slayed every opponent, knitting a ruthless streak of 23 straight pro wins until his first [world title] defeat to Cuban Richar Abril in 2013. Bogere’s record of 32 victories [20KOs] in 34 fights is good by any standards. But the impact of his two losses suggest otherwise.
Strength of character
After his unanimous decision loss to on Dominican Republic’s Javier Fortuna last month, a title eliminator, Bad Left Hook’s Scott Christ wrote: “At 30, it seems we’ve probably seen the best Bogere can do, and that it’s simply a bit below world level.”
But Bogere refuses to be stick on the back burner. First he contests that the fight was fake, “every one saw that I swept all the first six rounds. It’s in the seventh and eighth when the cut bled into my eye when I started handling him, when I couldn’t see well. But I came back and won the ninth and tenth rounds. Even the knockdown was fake but he was rewarded two points.”
“There’s too much politics in the game but I just have to stay focused and be patient, losing is part of the game.”
Bogere has worked with seasoned trainers like former world champ Mike McCallum, former US Olympic coach Kenny Adams but Bogere says his current trainer Thell Torrence is a class apart.
“He handles me well, and I have learnt to box smarter. [At 82] he is supposed to be retired but he gives me his time every day. He professes hope in me even, the when I struggled with injuries.
“The best reward I can give him is a world title.” But how soon can that come?
“It might not be too long. You know Allah switches things easily. It depends on the people behind me. You never know after one or two fights I might have a world title around my waste, Inshallah.”
Bogere’s will and belief cannot be overstated. He accepted to take the world title challenge even when he was still in pain. He was supposed to face Abril in December 2012 but had torn his left Achilles tendon. “The doctor told us I would recover in about three months. So the bout was rescheduled for March 2013. “Still I wasn’t fully healed but I had to do it anyway. I punched the bag on my knees because I couldn’t stand. I couldn’t run on the road so I trained on a treadmill in a swimming pool.”
Bogere lost by unanimous decision. But credit him for lasting the 12 rounds in an awkward fight against an opponent four inches taller. Yet Bogere does not even admit he lost.
But the brawl worsened the injury. Bogere took a year’s break, bouncing back to knockout Mexican Arturo Urena in six rounds.
Six more victories between 2014 and September 2016, signaled two opposites: The Lion was still hungry, but for a man who won nine of nine in 2009 to fight only six times in 24 months, showed that now Bogere was deploying his ailing body sparingly. And not so long the body went on strike, again. Soon after stopping Colombian Luis Eduardo Florez in the fifth round, Bogere checked into the surgeon’s room, this time to correct his right Achilles. He kept the grotesque pictures of the surgery and he does not mind showing them as evidence of his hustle.
After another year of recovery, The Lion returned in October 2017 to beat another Mexican Jose Luis Rodriguez by unanimous decision. He had just two fights in 2018, winning both before losing to Fortuna, a former world champion, on February 9, 2019. Basically, in the six since losing to Abril, Bogere has only fought 11 times, proof that his rise suffered a limp. Not because he lost the winning art but because his body rebelled.
“But I’m back now, I feel fitter…”
Man of faith
Just after the interview, Bogere joined our colleague to perform the evening prayers. Faith part of his life, evident in his career. From Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions Bogere joined Mayweather Promotions in 2016. But he is so humble for a boxer who has worked with three of the best promotions, and lived in the lively Las Vegas, for over a decade.
He is a stark contrast to countrymen like John ‘The Beast’ Mugabi and Kassim ‘The Dream’ Ouma, whom Vegas remembers for their marginal propensity to spend.
But sticking to his faith has collided with some career decisions. His former trainer Kenny Adams always complained about his insistence on fasting, even when he was preparing to fight. “I can’t give up fasting because it comes once in a year. If I miss one Ramathan how sure am I that I’ll get another chance. As a believer I’m not targeting only earthly success. I have to work for the Hereafter too.”
Luckily, his team has accepted that they give him a fight two months after the Ramathan, to allow the body regain the lost energy. Bogere never attended Islamic schools in Uganda. But the Kololo SS old boy wants to groom his son a practicing Muslim. Omari Sharif Bogere, 9, now in Third Grade, first attended a private Islamic school but when he couldn’t afford the fees, he joined a public school.
It’s this religious conviction that convinces Bogere that if Allah predetermined that, even after 30, he will win a world title like Ayub Kalule, Mugabi, Ouma, and Cornelius Boza-Edwards, another member of Mayweather Team, it shall be.
“I will stay focused, work hard and keep my faith that I’ll make it Inshallah.”
Bogere has an enviable record against Mexican fighters. Since the second-round TKO of Rodolfo Armenta in August 2009, he has beaten 13 others.
But he has maximum respect for Mexicans. “Those guys are warriors. Other fighters used to avoid me but Mexicans take me on without fear.” But how does he manage to beat them? “They are smart but I’m smarter than them. And fighting them has boosted my confidence.”
“You are not believers until you wish others what you wish yourself,” is a strong Islamic doctrine which Bogere subscribes to. Ugandan boxers like Sula Segawa and Rogers Ssemitala, are forging careers in Maryland but Bogere believes given guidance, many can reach Vegas.
“I want to meet our amateur boxers and give them tips of competing at the international tournaments like Olympics,” said the former national captain. “In some videos I have seen our boxers have the power but they need to learn smart boxing which wins medals in big tournaments.”
He adds that rigorous road work—a must in Uganda’s training camps—just tires the body. Instead, he runs twice a week, covering four miles every session.
Eleven years is too long a time. Two of his coaches and teammate Jolly Katongole are dead. “It’s been long…I really missed my people. Mom and all my relatives and friends here,” he said with visible passion.
His little brothers, whom he left as boys are now men, even towering over his 5ft5in. Bogere could not also locate Nakivubo Stadium, which housed his former gym Kampala Boxing Club. “It’s my mom who showed me where it used to be.”
Since Nakivubo was demolished in February 2017, KBC relocated a rooftop cubicle at Ovino Mall overlooking Kisenyi slum, where Bogere learnt boxing.
Hustle in Vegas
After captaining the Bombers in a fruitless 2007 World Amateur Boxing Championships, Bogere and three others, Ismail Muwendo, Eddy Akora and Phillip Adyak vanished in Chicago but went separate ways. Only Muwendo, based in Minnesota, managed to stay in boxing [21 wins, 1 loss].
Days later, Bogere, hardly 20, was on a two-hour bus trip to Las Vegas. His manager Jimmy Alex took him to Top Rank gym. “At first life wasn’t easy. People didn’t want to know who I am. You could greet someone and he just looks at you, and continues with his business!” Bogere recalls. “But after sparring with professionals, and winning some fights, they begun recognising me, and giving me some respect.” This is what former US First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt meant by saying: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
Everything was new. The food. The streets. The people. The weather. But the determined Bogere says: “By the time I turned professional, I was already a professional in my heart.”
Bogere enjoys life in The Money Team camp. His stay there, however, depends on what his bosses offer. “My last fight was my major TV fight with TMT and that was good. So if everything goes on like that, I wanna hang in there.” And if not? “If a better opportunity [to switch to another camp] shows up I take it.” But so far so good “I’m still happy where I am.”