American boxer Michael Gerard “Iron Mike” Tyson was born in the New York City borough Brooklyn on June 30th 1966. The ferocity and intimidating style of Tyson involved a series of rapid knockout wins that lead to his becoming the youngest heavyweight champion of the world in 1986. Ten years after Mike Tyson was born, a young Ugandan boxer Vitalis (Vitalish) Bbege, who had quickly acquired the equivalent of a national Tyson-like ferocious boxing image, was scheduled to represent Uganda at the 1976 Olympics to be held in Montreal from July 18th to 31st. Among the boxers on the Uganda team were future national boxing legends John Baker Muwanga (bantamweight) and featherweight Cornelius Boza-Edwards (Bbosa). Vitalish Bbege was scheduled to be Uganda’s welterweight competitor. Many African and other countries politically boycotted the 1976 around the starting of these Olympics. The scheduled preliminary bouts involving boycotting nations’ boxers were ruled walkovers in favor of the opponents of the non-boycotting nations.
In retrospect, Bbege had widely acquired his national brutal rapid knockout reputation during the 1974 African Amateur Boxing Championships that just so happened to be held in Bbege’s Uganda home territory. The boxing tournament took place in Kampala in November. Welterweight Bbege quickly disposed of all his opponents by early knockout, save for the audacious and strong Prince of Egypt who persistently held on until the end. Young and relatively unknown Bbege was quickly in the books as Africa’s amateur welterweight boxing champion. For decades, his name has remained legendary in Uganda and as synonymous with not only boxers, but also with belligerent and hard hitting regular people.
Bbege, as a welterweight represented Uganda at the Pre-Olympic Boxing Tournament in Montreal from November 27th to December 1st 1975. In the quarter-finals, on November 27th, the referee stopped Nico Jeurissen from Bbege’s onslaught, in the very first round. Bbege, in the semi-finals on November 29th, true to fashion, knocked out Leo Pelletier of Canada in the second round. But the finals, on December 1st, were not fruitful for Bbege. Bbege was defeated by Yoshifumi Seki of Japan with the referee stopping the fight in the first round. Bbege went home with the silver medal. And so did heavyweight Jacob Odonga, another Ugandan who was technically knocked out in the finals (by Hocine Tafer of France). The only other Ugandan contestant at this tournament was Mustapha Wasajja. He won the gold medal after outpointing Bryan Gibson of Canada.
After the 1976 Olympic boycott, Vitalish Bbege soon moved to the then West Germany (Federal Republic of Germany-FRG) where they would be more lucrative boxing opportunities for him. He remained an amateur boxer and never boxed professionally. He joined the Sparta Flensburg Boxing Club (BC Flensburg) in the city Flensburg where he still resides and is a fitness and boxing trainer.
Representing Sparta Flensburg (BC Flensburg), Bbege won numerous annual Schleswig-Holstein Amateur Boxing Association (SHABV) titles from the late 1970’s to the late 1980’s. In 1979, Bbege won the SHABV amateur middleweight (75kg) title, the same title as a light-middleweight (71 kg) in 1980 and 1981. In 1982, 1986, and 1990 Bbege became the SHABV middleweight champion. In 1984, 1985, and 1987, Bbege as a heavyweight (81kg), was the SHABV title holder.
On January 30th 1984, Vitalish Bbege represented West Germany in a boxing dual verses the United States. He boxed as a light-middleweight and defeated Michael Cross by two points to one in a three-round match-up. Interestingly Bbege has a brother who goes by the names Vitalish Nyamor Bbege and was another capable boxer who moved to Germany. Under the name Vitalish Nyamor, he also represented Germany at the same tournament and as a welterweight defeated Alton Rice by three points to zero.
John Odhiambo of Uganda and legendary Kenyan boxer David Attan are some of the other Africans that boxed in the Germany Bundesliga during the 1970’s and 1980’s. John Odhiambo, as a light-middleweight, had been scheduled to represent Uganda at the boycotted 1976 Olympics.
Vitalish Bbege and Vitalish Nyamor-Bbege, both regarded as Flensburg boxing legends, are well settled in Germany with their families. Offspring Dennis Nyamor Bbege is a boxer. Others of the Bbege descendants include Iris Bbege, Nancy Bbege, and Elvis-Aaron Bege.