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Kassim Ouma's Inspirational Story is Now Just Another Cautionary Tale

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  • Kassim Ouma's Inspirational Story is Now Just Another Cautionary Tale

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    By Arne K. Lang

    Alexander Povetkin wasn’t the only former world title-holder in action this past weekend. In Brussels, Belgium, Kassim Ouma lost an 8-round decision to Irish light heavyweight Tony Browne.

    Ouma won the IBF version of the junior middleweight title in 2004, taking the belt from Verno Phillips at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. He would subsequently fail in two stabs at the world middleweight title, losing a decision to Jermain Taylor in 2006 and then getting stopped in the 10th round by Gennadiy Golovkin in a good give-and-take fight in 2011.

    Chances are, however, that if you remember Kassim Ouma at all, it’s less for what he accomplished in the ring than for his fascinating back story.

    As a boy in his native Uganda, Ouma and his classmates were kidnapped from their school and forced to become child soldiers by a rebel insurgency group that would eventually take control of the country. At the age of seven, Ouma was toting around an AK-47. He never killed a man in the ring, but purportedly shot and killed several people at an age when most boys are still in elementary school. He escaped his captors at age 19 and found his way to Florida where he began his pro career.

    Ouma’s nightmarish childhood and his successful quest to become a world boxing champion became the subject of a documentary. Directed by Kief Davidson, the 2008 film, titled “Kassim the Dream,” won a slew of awards at international film festivals.

    Kassim Ouma’s story was inspirational, but this is boxing and happy endings in boxing are the exception, not the norm.

    After his loss to Golovkin, Ouma took a 30-month break from boxing. He would fight only once in the next four-and-a-half years, a 6-rounder at a cheap motel in Allentown, Pennsylvania. His inactivity was rooted in legal problems. In 2014, he was arrested in Los Angeles on battery charges for beating up a man who allegedly made homosexual advances and, in a related matter, jailed on a charge of cocaine possession. He would subsequently move to Europe, settling in Amsterdam.

    Ron Borges thought that Ouma lost his passion for boxing after his loss to Jermain Taylor. “He’s only 29 but he’s an old 29,” wrote Borges for an article that appeared in this publication in October of 2008.

    Kassim Ouma is now 42 years old and for the last several years has been plying the European circuit playing the role of a stepping-stone for young prospects.

    Tony Browne, Ouma’s opponent in Brussels, had only two pro fights under his belt and was no great shakes as an amateur. This was Ouma’s sixth straight loss, a skein that began in Poland where he was out-pointed by undefeated but limited Kamil Szeremeta who would go on to score a good-money fight with the vastly superior Gennadiy Golovkin.

    Ouma is hardly the first world-class boxer to devolve into a stepping stone. It’s a common refrain in boxing where even many of the legends hang around beyond their “expiration date,” tarnishing their legacy. We don’t wish to rag on Ouma considering his unimaginably terrible childhood in Uganda, but if there is ever a sequel to “Kassim the Dream,” it won’t be a feel-good story.

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