Whatever area you are located in, whether the boxing market is obscure or thriving, you are sure to hear about the finest talent in your city. It doesn’t matter if you are talking about world class superstars or emerging prospects, word travels fast within boxing circles.
I moved to Las Vegas a little over a year ago and one of the first prospects that I heard about at the time was Ugandan lightweight Sharif Bogere. Having just turned 21 years old at the time, Bogere was an undefeated boxer-puncher who fought much of his bouts in or near the Las Vegas area and I definitely wanted to cross paths with him.
While it took a little longer than expected, I spotted Bogere at the weigh-in for November’s Juan Manuel Marquez-Michael Katsidis event inside of the MGM Grand. Bogere was mingling with boxing personalities inside of the Rouge Lounge and we talked briefly and planned on meeting up soon thereafter.
I entered the TKO Boxing Gym less than a week later as Bogere was preparing for an appearance on the undercard of the December 11th Amir Khan-Marcos Maidana junior welterweight title bout. Bogere instantly cracked a grin upon my arrival and after exchanging pleasantries he would dive into his workout.
Bogere spent the next hour shadowboxing and hitting the mitts while also working on various cardio routines. Standing at 5’6”, Bogere might not strike you as the most imposing of specimens but all you had to do was catch a glimpse of him firing away as he conducted his mitt drills to get a sense of some of his explosiveness.
Following his workout Bogere and I discussed his early childhood back home and his initial foray into boxing.
“I was born in Kampala, Uganda,” Bogere reflected. “As a child, a kid, growing up was tough. To live a better life you have to survive and do a lot stuff. Where I grew up was kind of a ghetto and all we had to do was fighting. To survive kids from other neighborhoods would come and start fighting us. So as time went by we met a group of kids, older friends of ours. They would put us together and make us fight.
“When we used to fight they would tell us to take off our shirt and wrap them around our hands and start fighting each other. So all the kids, I whopped their ass. I beat them all. Around that time I was around eight. As time went by my friend took me to a boxing gym. I never went to a boxing gym and I was scared. He just pushed me inside the boxing gym.”
It was definitely a new world, especially to an eight-year old kid, but Bogere put his apprehensions aside and tested the waters out. He remembers instantly being hooked.
“People were scary,” Bogere says of the gym atmosphere. “It wasn’t like you could just come into a boxing gym. You would see fighters sweating and you would be scared. We saw fighters and they asked us what we came there for. We said that we came to box and they said to take off our shirts and start shadowboxing. I started shadowboxing and they liked me. They saw me, that I had a little bit of skills. After training they bought us tea. Buying tea was like a big thing. I started loving the boxing and loving the gym. From there I developed an interest of boxing.”
After letting his guard down, Bogere realized what many young fighters realize, that the sport can often be somewhat of a brotherhood with the people around you becoming like family.
“I allowed them to treat me like their son, their kid.”
Bogere began his amateur career in 1999 and despite having success he couldn’t shake the lingering feeling that he needed to make some serious moves in order for his career to flourish. Bogere would finally make the move to the States in 2007 and was grateful to cross paths with his current manager Jimmy Alex.
“When I joined boxing, after a few years all my focus was to come to America and become a world champion,” said Bogere. “And I had to work for it because there are a lot of competitions back home and coming here is not an easy thing. I had to work hard and pray to God that he would one day help me so that I could make it. All my prayers came true. When I came to America I met my manager Alex.”
Bogere first landed in Chicago upon his arrival but it wasn’t enough to fully satisfy him. The soft-spoken charge was drawn to the bright lights of Las Vegas and speaks with affirmation about his thoughts of coming to the boxing capital of the world.
“There is nothing like Vegas in boxing,” he continued. “This is the place. Life is way different here. It’s not like back home is Africa. We have no equipment but everything is here. I see different fighters, all the fighters that I used to watch on TV. Now I can meet them in person and talk to them. Maybe some of them give me the right advice or show me some good moves. I’ve got a lot of experience here.”
Bogere would work with former middleweight and light heavyweight champion Mike McCallum for a brief period before linking up with proven veteran trainer Kenny Adams, whom he has been with ever since. During our conversation Adams had been recovering at the Summerlin Hospital after reportedly suffering from kidney failure and Bogere obviously had him in his thoughts.
“He’s been sick,” Bogere said. “It hurts me a little but it’s life. Stuff happens and I just pray for him. I want to do this fight for him. I am dedicating it to him.”
On the night of December 11th Bogere would win a shutout decision over journeyman Chris Fernandez inside of the Mandalay Bay. While failing to deliver an emphatic knockout, Bogere was workmanlike as he picked his taller foe apart with stinging jabs and took the initiative by pounding his ribcage with body shots. Scores of 80-72 were read across the board after eight rounds as Bogere sees his record improve to 18-0 with 11 knockouts. With Golden Boy Promotions serving as his promoter, Bogere can count on many more appearances like his December showcase.
I congratulated Sharif after his victory and noticed a few bruises on his face, a testament to how physical even a clear-cut victory can be in this sport. Hours later Bogere would sit ringside as Khan and Maidana engaged in one of the year’s wildest fights and he couldn’t help but to imagine himself in that same position within a few years’ time.
While ringside and inside of the media center following the bout I spotted countless boxing luminaries such as Nonito Donaire Jr., Timothy Bradley, Paulie Malignaggi, Devon Alexander and others. Not yet known on a mainstream level himself, Bogere simply blended in with the crowd and seemed to soak everything up.
The childhood boy from Uganda has found a way to get his foot inside of boxing’s door, not always an easy thing in this sport, and he will surely be seeing some time on some Golden Boy events in the near future. While still far from being the star he aspires to be, you can sense definite contentment and joy in Bogere’s voice when speaking on how happy he is to have gotten this far.
“Boxing, it’s what I love. This is my family.”
Chris Robinson is based out of Las Vegas, Nevada. He can be reached at [email protected]