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East Coast Boxing Club – Redefining fitness in Kampala

by Zee – Caroline Pitt 

Exercise is good for the body mind and soul; however getting to the gym can be an entirely different challenge particularly when your time is shared between work, family and friends. East Coast Boxing Club has a solution that speaks to the needs of the busy professional in Kampala…this solution may just be what you have been looking for.

Based in Naguru, the Boxing Club has designed a training programme that can be offered at your home or compound gym. This is a convenient, reasonably priced training option for those who are limited with time yet have the desire to stay fit and healthy. The added extra is that when you invest in your health you also invest in the community.

Twin-brothers Hassan and Hussein Khalil established the club in 2003 with three objectives in mind; Firstly, they wanted to make a difference to the youth in their community; Secondly, to promote boxing as a sport for Uganda and Thirdly, to assist their clients obtain the health and fitness goals they set for themselves. These three aspects integrate to form what this club is all about.

Clients who use the personal training services offered by the club play an important role towards supporting the Khalil brothers run and maintain the gym. Albert Leibrandt (one of Kampala’s busy professionals) as an example struggled to maintain his fitness goals and so commenced with the training programme at East Coast. In four-and-a half months he lost 35kg (77lbs) and his fitness levels improved dramatically. Albert has since, maintained this weight loss and wouldn’t think of going a week without his boxing workouts. He says, “ It’s fun, keeps me fit, energetic and my stress levels low.”

Income generated from client training sessions contributes toward the Boxing Club’s youth programme, which provides a place of activity for the community’s young people. Children of all ages participate in different activities such as boxing and beat boy dancing. Here, they form part of a family and feel like they’re part of a family. This programme also allows coaches to identify young boxers who show the potential and talent to compete and possibly represent Uganda in this sport one day.

Running a project such as this requires commitment and passion, which Hassan and Hussein have. They do what they can to support, teach and transfer good values to these young minds. When you visit the club and observe how the children and others interact with each other, it’s evident that respecting and helping each other is the way things are done. Patricia Apolot, a 22-year old female boxer says,  “They’re not only coaches, they’re like parents, they’re like family. They always have a motto that you’re never alone here in the gym.”

The club has provided a safe place for over 200 youths to express their energy; release frustrations and more importantly keep youth off the streets and away from crime. Hassan comments on the fact that local officials have commended the programme for its positive impact in Naguru. Many of these young boxers want to make more of their lives; the opportunity to box professionally motivates them to be part of the Boxing Club hoping that the Club could offer this opportunity. Miro Juma, 17- years- old and one of the top boxers at the club hopes to reach this goal, he says, “I want to be a boxer one day when I finish school and also get a good job.”

Hussein is clear that his life’s goal is to find good boxers in the Naguru area, train them and possibly create the opportunities for them to have a professional boxing career. The brothers and assistant coaches watch and identify youngsters that show ability to box at club, national or International level and then invest the time to train them accordingly.

The quality of training the coaches at East Coast offer, is evident in the results they achieve. In the recent East Africa Cities Inter-Club boxing championships held in Kenya, the club brought home eight medals. They won five gold medals; two silver medals and a bronze medal and also scooped the award for best overall boxer, which went to the club’s 20-year old, Nasir Bashir. Results such as these could be achieved far more regularly if the required support was available.

Both Hassan and Hussein insist that the good boxers need to be exposed to more matches, both locally and internationally in order to really grow the capacity and promote the sport. Enabling this requires more funding, sponsorships and proficiently organised opportunities for the boxers to compete. The coaches themselves do not have the financial means to subsidise this but do as much as they can with the money they do get.

The brothers can quickly produce a list of their top-performing boxers who have what it takes to compete at a broader, professional level and whom they would recommend to any promoter. Hassan, Hussein and their friend and fellow coach Dick Katende know what it means to prepare for and participate on a global platform as they each have successful international boxing careers behind their names.

Hassan speaks of fighting in 174 fights with only 4 losses, Hussein lists an impressive number of international wins and his highlights include gold medals won in the 1983 Commonwealth Games and East and Central African championships of the same year. Coach Dick, as he is fondly known, has played an integral role with the Ugandan national boxing team for 25 years and also adds international wins to his personal portfolio.

It is with this calibre of coaching and training that results are achieved, not only for the boxers but also for the clients that utilise the personal training services. What makes training with this club different is that they offer clients convenient training sessions at reasonable prices that get results. Costs per session are based on the options you choose. Currently, Hassan’s trainers travel to individuals and groups in Kololo, Naguru, Bugolobi, Kabalagala and other surrounding areas.

Evan Garricks, a current client trains with a trainer at his complex four days a week and then at the gym on Saturdays. He says, ”All the trainers are a pleasure to train and be with. They are never ambivalent and know exactly what they want to achieve. The sessions are varied, challenging and intensive.” Evan has benefitted in a number of ways from the sessions including, losing and maintaining weight, increasing energy, agility and stamina, improving mental focus and generally feeling stronger and healthier.

Anyone can sign up for training sessions, as the classes offered are adapted to suit your needs and ability; and you don’t need to step into a boxing ring to experience the benefits. Galit Schamberg has been training with them for a year and says, “They understand that different people are capable of performing at different levels and workouts are definitely customised to the ability of each participant. I don’t know anyone who has tried it, that didn’t love it!”

One of the remarkable stories at the club is that of Bashir Ramathan, the 40-year old blind boxer. With the support and encouragement of Hassan, he has participated in a number of boxing matches; one of which was a match against another blind Tanzanian boxer. This is an inspiration to the entire community. It is clear that at East Coast Boxing Club nothing is impossible and nobody is turned away.

A number of the club’s clients feel this same passion and commitment; attesting to the support and encouragement they receive. “Hassan and his team are without doubt the most motivational and endearing bunch of people I’ve ever trained with.” says Lauren Wepener.

They are passionate about what they do and are passionate about their clients achieving the results they want. You don’t need expensive equipment to reap the health and fitness rewards of this training and can be assured of support and encouragement. “ They genuinely care about you and all around them, they will work you hard but not harder than you want to work” says Greg Pitt.

It is with sense compassion, a genuine interest in doing what’s best for their clients, boxers and the youth of Naguru that East Coast Boxing Club makes the difference it does.

If you’re interested in personal training from East Coast Boxing Club, contact Hassan directly on 077 2638 608

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