News / Africa

Kampala’s Blind Boxer Proves Sight Isn’t Everything

Blind boxer Bashir Ramathan trains at the East Coast Boxing Club in Naguru, Kampala. (Hilary Heuler/VOA)
Blind boxer Bashir Ramathan trains at the East Coast Boxing Club in Naguru, Kampala. (Hilary Heuler/VOA)
— A man from Kampala’s slums has made a name for himself in boxing. That's not unusual, as boxing is a popular sport in Uganda. Except that Bashir Ramathan is blind. Ramathan pursues a quest to find people to fight, and his dream to create an international blind boxing association.  

The East Coast Boxing Club in Naguru, one of Kampala’s chaotic slums, is filled with young men hoping to box their way out of poverty. But one of them is fighting against greater odds than most.

Seventeen years ago, Bashir Ramathan went blind. A construction worker and bricklayer, Bashir had been known as an athlete, a strong man.  Now, at age 41, he is determined to show the world that nothing has changed.

“They have to learn from me that blind also can play boxing," said Ramathan. "That’s why I wanted to show them. They know we can play all games, but boxing is what is making them surprised. ‘Boxer? Blind? You are lying. How can that man play?’”

It was even difficult to convince his wife, Hajjat. At first, she says, she was worried that boxing would be dangerous for her husband.

“I was so sorry for what he’s doing because I was seeing as if it was very risky for him. But one time he advised me to go and see how he was playing this boxing. Then I started gaining energy, maybe feeling that he can do something.  I was feeling proud," said Hajjat.

These days Bashir is making a name for himself, attending fundraisers and boxing demonstrations.  Several years ago he found another blind boxer in Tanzania, and the two fought a match.

But most of his sparring partners are simply blindfolded.  Bashir explains that he has his own strategies, and can often win such fights.

“I use my senses, you know?  Mostly my ears.  I hear the footmarks.  And I know if I give you here, I move away.  You know I’m quicker," he said.

Bashir trains at the boxing club early every morning, where he is a popular figure among the local boys. Bashir’s sparring matches are lively affairs. But coach Dick Katende admits that sometimes, there are mistakes.

“Mistakes are there, yes. This time the referee forgot to place [his] hands properly.  So he walked off slowly and in the process [Bashir] sensed somebody is near, and that should be the opponent.  So he went in, boom boom boom, hit the referee, and then there was a shout then it was stopped. He was told not to hit the referee," said Katende.

Nor has it been easy to drum up support.  Uganda’s associations for the blind, he says, have not been encouraging, and many other blind people in the country see sports like boxing as unsuitable, or even impossible.

“They fear boxing, blinds in Uganda here.  They used to discourage me very much.  [They say] ‘ah, boxing is not a good sport, it’s not a good game.’  [But] if you can encourage us, we make it," said Ramathan.

Bashir insists that blindness should not hold anybody back.  He dreams of bringing blind boxers together from all over the world to fight, and of training blind children as well.  He also wants to learn braille, to find a job and to lift himself and his family out of the slums.

But in the meantime, says Katende, Bashir is struggling to find worthy opponents.

“There was a fight for him last year, [but] only one.  Only one.  There’s not many blind boxers who can take up his challenge, so he’s very courageous.  He challenges anybody.  He puts up a good fight," he said.

For a blind boxer in Uganda, there is not that much more he can do.

You May Like

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debatei
X
Shelley Schlender
July 24, 2014 6:43 PM
In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Death Toll From Israel-Gaza Conflict Surpasses 700

Gaza officials say a shelling hit a compound housing a United Nations-run school in the Gaza Strip, killing more than a dozen people, during an Israeli offensive in the area. Heavy fighting between the Israeli military and Hamas militants continued on Thursday, pushing up the death toll. So far, more than 730 Palestinians and 35 Israelis have been killed in the conflict. VOA's Scott Bobb has the latest from Jerusalem.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Researchers Target Low-Cost Avatar Technology

Scientists at the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies say 3-dimensional representations could revolutionize social media. Elizabeth Lee has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid