By Marc Lichtenfeld
Former junior middleweight champion Kassim “The Dream” Ouma wants nothing more than to put the past away and look forward. His fight Friday night against Gabriel Rosado in Newark, New Jersey is a step in that direction. Yet he is constantly asked to revisit his past. By now Ouma’s story is well known. He was abducted at 7 years old by rebels in his native Uganda and forced under threat of death to witness and perform unspeakable acts. While his life hasn’t exactly been a fairy tale since defecting to the United States, he won a world title, put siblings through college, supported numerous family members in Africa and brought his mother and son to America.
So, it’s no surprise that his incredible story of perseverance is what people want to talk about.
But even when the talk shifts to boxing, people focus on the past. How did he lose to Saul Roman? Why wasn’t he able to do enough to beat Cornelius Bundrage?
Just as Ouma doesn’t like to talk about his childhood, he also prefers not to dwell on what he calls the “first round” of his career. “Those fights are in the past and they don’t matter anymore,” he says. “It was great and I won a world title, but now I’m focused on the second round, climbing back up the ladder and winning a title again.”
When pressed if his training habits may have contributed to the losses, he pushes the question aside and instead speaks about how much he loves his fans around the world (especially in Uganda) and is working hard to win another championship for them.
For recent fights, Kassim trained in Philadlephia. This time, he stayed at home in West Palm Beach, FL. “It was great to train at home and be able to play with my kids,” he says, smiling.” Ouma got world class sparring during camp, swapping leather with Cory Spinks and Andre Berto.
He’s not especially concerned about Rosado, 11-3 (7), though he acknowledges, “he’s a tough tough kid. I’ll give him that.” Ouma adds, “But there’s no way he’s going to stand in my way.”
Even if the “second round” of his career continues to go well with a win over Rosado, he will no doubt be faced with more questions about his past. In June, a documentary titled “Kassim the Dream” is scheduled to be released. The film has won numerous awards and is a powerful story about Ouma’s life, including his emotional return to Uganda for the first time since he left when he was 18 years old.
He knows the questions are coming. But for right now he’s keenly focused on Friday night’s bout with Gabriel Rosado and the next stage of his career. “The second round of my career is going to be great because there’s not going to be a third round,” he declares.