Former professional boxer Mohamed Kayongo first got into boxing while spending time in the Ugandan government’s army barracks, after the army had rescued him from the rebel groups that abducted him and trained him as a child soldier.
Now, by mentoring young people in both Minneapolis, Minnesota in the US, and in his hometown of Kampala, Uganda, Kayongo is training the next generation to discover their own independence through boxing.
Kayongo took up his role as a coach at Minneapolis’ Northside Boxing Club after retiring from a successful career in boxing. Nicknamed the “African Assassin,” he boxed for the Ugandan National Team and won a silver medal at the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games.
In 2003, he launched a career as a professional boxer in Minnesota, eventually receiving US citizenship. “Once I got the freedom, I had to retire so I [could] pass it on to this coming generation,” he said.
At Northside, Kayongo runs summer programs that teach boxing, financial literacy, and Black history to local underserved youth. He also founded Northside’s sister organization, Godfather Boxing Academy, halfway across the world in Kampala, which provides food, shelter, and school fees to children in need.
“It was my promise going back [to] build a shelter gym,” explained Kayongo. “It takes everybody to step in [and] care for these kids because they’re the next generation of the community.”
Watch the video at the top of this page for more on how Kayongo’s past as a child soldier influenced his desire to change the lives of young people.