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)
TEXT SIZE - +
— 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

Multimedia Relatives of South Korean Ferry Victims Fire at Authorities

46 people are confirmed dead, but some 250 remain trapped inside sunken ferry More

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

$84 million project aims to clean up soil contaminated by Agent Orange More

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid