John Mugabi

Uganda Super-middleweight 1978 All-Africa Games
John Mugabi
Nickname(s)The Beast
Height1.74 m (5 ft 9 in)
Reach188 cm (74 in)
Born (1960-03-04) 4 March 1960 (age 60)
Kampala, Uganda
Boxing record
Total fights50
Wins by KO39

John Mugabi (born March 4, 1960) is a Ugandan former professional boxer who competed from 1980 to 1991, and 1996 to 1999. He held the WBC super-welterweight title from 1989 to 1990, and challenged twice for world titles at middleweight, including the undisputed championship.

Mugabi was part of an exceptionally talented group of light-middleweights and middleweights during a "golden era" of the 1980s which included Marvin Hagler, Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns, Wilfred Benítez, Davey Moore, and Roberto Durán. As an amateur, Mugabi won a silver medal in the welterweight division at the 1980 Summer Olympics, and was the only medallist for Uganda at the event. He is listed #38 on Ring Magazine's list of 100 greatest punchers of all time

Amateur career

Representing Uganda, Mugabi was the Silver medalist at the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow, boxing in the Welterweight class. Mugabi lost to Andrés Aldama of Cuba in the final.

He was also a silver medallist at the 1976 Junior World Championships, losing to Herol Graham in the final. Additionally, Mugabi won a bronze medal at the 1978 All-Africa Games in the light-welterweight division.[1]



Professional career

John Mugabi started as a professional on December 5, 1980, by knocking out Oemer Karadenis in round one in Cologne. Soon after that win, Mugabi moved to London where he became acquainted with boxing promoter Mickey Duff, an expert in boxer marketing who landed Mugabi various fights in England and built his reputation there. Mugabi won eight fights in Europe. Searching for more formidable foes, John moved to Florida where he became a favourite of American TV networks with his sensational knockouts of contenders such as Curtis Ramsey, Gary Guiden, former world champion Eddie Gazo, Curtis Parker, Frank The Animal Fletcher, Nino Gonzalez and Earl Hargrove through a display of tenacity and ferociousness.'The Beast’ as he would become known (for his ferocious attacks and untamable style—bashing his prey with overhand rights and wild left hooks) was able to fluctuate his weight between middleweight and junior middleweight. Some people lose effectiveness by changing weight classes, but not Mugabi. He was able to knock out every opponent he faced to that point of his career.

Mugabi’s first victory of note came on May 2, 1982, when he took on veteran Curtis Ramsey. It was Mugabi’s 11th bout and he took care of the American in two rounds in Atlantic City, New Jersey. 1983 was a busy calendar year for the Beast. In that year he took on Gary Guiden, who had just come off of a Championship fight against Davey Moore; Mugabi stopped him in three. Many started speculating about Mugabi’s role in the future of the Junior Middleweight and Middleweight divisions. The fact Mugabi easily made the weight at both divisions made him more intriguing than most prospects. Nicaraguan, Eddie Gazo, a former WBA Junior Middleweight Champion provided Mugabi with his first real test. Gazo went rounds with Mugabi, but ‘The Beast’ ended things the way he always did. Mugabi was simply stronger and faster tactically overwhelming the busier Gazo. In the same year, Mugabi took on Curtis Parker a former Pennsylvania Golden Gloves amateur champion )The ‘meeting’ with Curtis Parker was on national television. Parker was an established fighter, but Mugabi’s destruction of Parker was savage. It was the first time that Parker had lost a bout by knockout.

In February 1984 Mugabi’s ability to take adversity was tested by James ‘Hard Rock’ Green. Mugabi slowly took control of the fight until it was stopped in the 10th round, with Mugabi declared the winner by technical knockout. The bout between ‘The Beast’ and Frank ‘The Animal’ Fletcher marked a quiet maturity that marked Mugabi’s transformation from being what had been dubbed a ‘banger’ with raw power to a refined tactical boxer. The Beast hurt his prey, gently testing with his jabs and then in the 4th round a couple of roundhouse punches and a haymaker travelling all the way from his waist caught Fletcher asleep—the fight ended with Fletcher’s body between the ropes.

On his way to becoming the number one contender for the middleweight title of each of the three major sanctioning bodies (WBA, WBC, and IBF),[2] Mugabi ran roughshod over the division and finished each of his opponents inside the distance. Mugabi's ferocity was captured by Phil Berger. Writing in the New York Times in 1986, Berger, commenting on Mugabi’s preparation for the Hagler fight noted the intensity of preparation that left his sparring partners in a 'woebegone condition' and further that some did not last long enough to draw their second paycheck and left Mugabi’s training camp ‘looking like extras from 'Night of the Living Dead'.

Because of his ability to fight both at junior middleweight and middleweight, fans began to talk about the possibility of him challenging either world light middleweight champion Hearns or world middleweight champion Hagler. Despite Mugabi being a mandatory contender for some time, a Hearns - Mugabi title match never materialised, as Hearns elected to move to Middleweight to challenge Marvelous Marvin Hagler. Considering his streak and Hagler's tough battle with Hearns on April 15, 1985, some felt Mugabi had a shot at doing what eleven men before him could not: wresting Hagler's undisputed world middleweight title from him. On March 10, 1986, Marvin ‘Marvelous’ Hagler rose to a very stiff challenge. A young, undefeated powerhouse was destroying every opponent in his path. John ‘The Beast’ Mugabi had won all of his contests by knockout—many spectacular; many in the first few rounds of the fight. He possessed incredible knockout power and provided the boxing world with an epic encounter.

The fight was the first televised by Showtime. Mugabi landed his share of blows to Hagler's head during the early rounds. The turning point came in the sixth round when Hagler landed many heavy blows and staggered Mugabi. Mugabi fought back gamely but his early knockout wins left him ill-prepared for a long, tough fight. In the end, it was Hagler who came out the victor, with a knockout in the eleventh round. Many boxing fans consider this to have been the toughest contest of Hagler's career. Sugar Ray Leonard's decision to come out of retirement and challenge Hagler for the Middleweight Championship was heavily influenced by Hagler's performance in the Mugabi fight.

After his first loss, Mugabi retired to Uganda and ballooned in weight to 190  lbs. In September 1986 he contacted Mickey Duff, stating that he was ready to fight again. Mugabi went down in weight and was given an opportunity by the WBC to win their world light middleweight title, vacated by Hearns. Once again many fans favoured him, this time against Duane Thomas, on December 5 of '86. However, Mugabi suffered a broken eye socket, the consequence of a punch in round three and the fight had to be stopped. Mugabi underwent optical surgery the next day to repair his injury.

Discouraged by two consecutive losses, Mugabi gained weight and did not fight for nearly fourteen months. In January 1988, he came back to fight Bryan Grant on the undercard of Mike Tyson's title defence against Larry Holmes. Mugabi won by quick knockout and set off on another knockout winning streak. He became number one contender for the WBC 154  lb title in August 1988 but could not land a fight with then-champion Donald Curry. After Curry lost his title in an upset in early 1989, Mugabi was given another opportunity to become world champion by the WBC. On July 8 of that year, Mugabi finally made his dream come true, knocking out Curry's successor Rene Jacquot in round one in Grenoble to become the WBC light middleweight champion. After two first-round knockout wins against Ricky Stackhouse and Carlos Antunes, Mugabi, who by this time was having difficulty making the weight limit of 154  lbs, put his title on the line against Terry Norris. When Norris downed the champion for the count with a right to the jaw, Mugabi received the dubious distinction as the second fighter, after Al Singer, to both win and lose a world title by the first-round knockout when he was defeated by Norris. Showing resilience, Mugabi resurfaced with two more wins and once again found himself fighting for a world title, facing Gerald McClellan on November 20, 1991, in London for the vacant WBO middleweight championship. Mugabi looked a shadow of his former self by this time, and once again came out on the losing end, again by a first-round knockout.

Mugabi took a five-year layoff in which he moved to Australia. In 1996, he came back for the first of an eight-fight comeback. He went on to claim the Australian middleweight championship by way of a 12th-round decision over Jamie Wallace. It only took John two fights before he was in line for a world title again. In his third fight back from the loss to Norris, Mugabi would challenge Glen Kelly. That November night in 1999, marked the decline of Mugabi’s illustrious boxing career as he was again knocked out in the eighth round. Mugabi resides in Australia where among other functions he trains fighters.

When Mugabi finally retired, he had a record of 42 wins, 7 losses and 1 draw, 39 wins by knockout. His 25 fight knockout win streak stands as one of the longest knockout streaks ever in boxing.

Life after boxing

Currently, Mugabi is working on his biography as well as a documentary. The themes of the project revolve around three spectrums: his journey, his glory and his determination to advocate the welfare of elite boxers. His biggest single concern is the need for emerging boxing talent to have a training program that goes beyond the gym to encompass learning a trade/profession as they pursue their dreams of boxing glory. After all, a boxer at any time can lose their livelihood through a single punch or training accident with no fall back—no pension, no savings, no nothing. He has started his advocacy with himself. Mugabi is currently a student determined to gain what he may have lost in an illustrious boxing career-fulfilment outside the ring.

Mugabi has a 20-year-old daughter, Mildred Prudence Mugabi who lives in Tampa, Florida and he has another daughter who still resides in Kampala, Uganda named Mourine Basemera Mugabi.

Professional boxing record

Professional record summary
50 fights 42 wins 7 losses
By knockout 39 6
By decision 3 1
Draws 1
No. Result Record Opponent Type Round, time Date Location Notes
50 Loss 42–7–1 Glen Kelly TKO 8 (12) 16 Jan 1999 Alexandria Basketball Stadium, Sydney, Australia For IBF Pan Pacific and Australian light-heavyweight titles
49 Loss 42–6–1 Anthony Bigeni TKO 8 (12) 19 Jul 1998 Downtown Convention Centre, Auckland, New Zealand For PABA light-heavyweight title
48 Win 42–5–1 Paul Smallman UD 10 26 Feb 1998 Southport RSL Club, Gold Coast, Australia
47 Loss 41–5–1 William Bo James UD 10 13 Jan 1998 Foxwoods Resort Casino, Ledyard, Connecticut, US
46 Draw 41–4–1 Paul Smallman TD 2 (10) 18 Dec 1997 Southport RSL Club, Gold Coast, Australia
45 Win 41–4 Jamie Wallace UD 12 19 Jun 1997 Gold Coast, Australia Won vacant Australian super-middleweight title
44 Win 40–4 Ambrose Mlilo TKO 10 (10), 1:44 20 Feb 1997 National Convention Centre, Canberra, Australia
43 Win 39–4 Peter Kinsella PTS 10 16 Dec 1996 Gold Coast, Australia
42 Loss 38–4 Gerald McClellan TKO 1 (12), 2:51 20 Nov 1991 Royal Albert Hall, London, England For vacant WBO middleweight title
41 Win 38–3 Kevin Whaley-El TKO 4 12 Sep 1991 Latchmere Leisure Centre, London, England
40 Win 37–3 James Williamson TKO 3 12 Jul 1991 Palais des Festivals et des Congrès, Cannes, France
39 Loss 36–3 Terry Norris KO 1 (12), 2:47 31 Mar 1990 USF Sun Dome, Tampa, Florida, US Lost WBC super-welterweight title
38 Win 36–2 Carlos Antunes KO 1 (10), 2:44 10 Jan 1990 Royal Albert Hall, London, England
37 Win 35–2 Ricky Stackhouse TKO 1 30 Oct 1989 Pavillon Baltard, Nogent-sur-Marne, France
36 Win 34–2 René Jacquot TKO 2 8 Jul 1989 Mirapolis, Cergy-Pontoise, France Won WBC super-welterweight title
35 Win 33–2 Ralph Smiley TKO 2 20 Mar 1989 Nogent-le-Phaye, France
34 Win 32–2 Kenneth Styles TKO 1 (10) 23 Feb 1989 The Palace, Auburn Hills, Michigan, US
33 Win 31–2 Francisco Carballo TKO 2 (10), 1:30 4 Feb 1989 Caesars Palace, Paradise, Nevada, US
32 Win 30–2 Mike Sacchetti TKO 3 (10) 27 Sep 1988 Players Athletic Club, Sharpsville, Pennsylvania, US
31 Win 29–2 Kenny Snow TKO 4 (10), 2:59 7 Jul 1988 Hyatt Regency, Tampa, Florida, US
30 Win 28–2 Gonzalo Montes TKO 3 4 Jun 1988 Lee County Civic Center, North Fort Myers, Florida, US
29 Win 27–2 Knox Brown TKO 3 (10), 1:04 5 May 1988 Sands, Atlantic City, New Jersey, US
28 Win 26–2 Bryan Grant TKO 2 (6), 2:51 22 Jan 1988 Convention Hall, Atlantic City, New Jersey, US
27 Loss 25–2 Duane Thomas TKO 3 (12), 0:56 5 Dec 1986 Caesars Palace, Paradise, Nevada, US For vacant WBC super-welterweight title
26 Loss 25–1 Marvin Hagler KO 11 (12), 1:29 10 Mar 1986 Caesars Palace, Paradise, Nevada, US For WBA, WBC, IBF, The Ring, and lineal middleweight titles
25 Win 25–0 Bill Bradley RTD 4 (10), 3:00 6 Aug 1985 Harrah's at Trump Plaza, Atlantic City, New Jersey, US
24 Win 24–0 Earl Hargrove KO 1 (10), 1:33 17 Mar 1985 Egypt Shrine Temple, Tampa, Florida, US
23 Win 23–0 Nino Gonzalez KO 1 25 Sep 1984 Wembley Arena, London, England
22 Win 22–0 Frank Fletcher TKO 4 (10), 2:03 5 Aug 1984 Egypt Shrine Temple, Tampa, Florida, US
21 Win 21–0 Wilbert Johnson KO 2 (10), 0:45 27 May 1984 Hotel del Lago Casino, Maracaibo, Venezuela
20 Win 20–0 James Green TKO 10 (10), 1:29 19 Feb 1984 Hyatt Regency, Tampa, Florida, US
19 Win 19–0 Curtis Parker KO 1 (10), 2:59 12 Nov 1983 USF Sun Dome, Tampa, Florida, US
18 Win 18–0 Eddie Gazo TKO 4 (10), 2:37 8 Oct 1983 Playboy Hotel and Casino, Atlantic City, New Jersey, US
17 Win 17–0 Don Morgan KO 1 (10), 2:11 16 Sep 1983 Tampa, Florida, US
16 Win 16–0 Jeff Nelson TKO 2 (10) 5 Aug 1983 Hyatt Regency, Tampa, Florida, US
15 Win 15–0 Gary Guiden TKO 3 (10), 1:35 3 Jul 1983 Curtis Hixon Hall, Tampa, Florida, US
14 Win 14–0 Roosevelt Green TKO 1 15 May 1983 Caesars Palace, Paradise, Nevada, US
13 Win 13–0 Doug Demmings TKO 5 (8) 23 Oct 1982 Berlin, Germany
12 Win 12–0 Steve Williams TKO 6 (10) 15 Sep 1982 Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York, US
11 Win 11–0 Curtis Ramsey KO 1 (10), 2:58 2 May 1982 Playboy Hotel and Casino, Atlantic City, New Jersey, US
10 Win 10–0 Curtis Taylor KO 2 26 Mar 1982 Kiel, West Germany
9 Win 9–0 Sammy Floyd KO 2 26 Dec 1981 Gelsenkirchen, West Germany
8 Win 8–0 Darwin Brewster KO 6 (8), 1:40 16 Nov 1981 Hilton on Park Lane, London, England
7 Win 7–0 John Mwansa KO 1 31 Oct 1981 Lusaka, Zambia
6 Win 6–0 Ronnie Ford KO 1 25 Sep 1981 Cologne, West Germany
5 Win 5–0 Pedro Guerrero TKO 2 30 May 1981 Showboat Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada, US
4 Win 4–0 Dennis Pryce KO 1 (8), 1:52 11 May 1981 Hilton on Park Lane, London, England
3 Win 3–0 Mauricio Fernandes da Cruz TKO 4 10 Apr 1981 Kiel, West Germany
2 Win 2–0 Giampaolo Piras TKO 2 (6) 12 Feb 1981 Kiel, West Germany
1 Win 1–0 Oemer Karadenis TKO 1 5 Dec 1980 Cologne, West Germany


  1. ^ "3.All-Africa Games - Algiers, Algeria - July 13-28 1978". Retrieved 12 February 2017.
  2. ^ Boxing record for John Mugabi from BoxRec