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Mugabi makes winning comeback after five-year absence

December 16, 1996

SOUTHPORT, Australia (AP) _ Former world champion John ``The Beast″ Mugabi made a winning comeback to boxing on Monday night after a five-year absence from the ring.

But the former WBC junior middleweight champion, once among the most feared knockout punchers in the sport, had to go the distance for the first time in his career.

Mugabi, 36, gave away weight and youth but scored a 10-round majority points decision over Australian cruiserweight champion Peter Kinsella.

Ugandan-born Mugabi improved his professional record to 39 wins and four losses. All of his 38 previous wins had come by knockout, as had all of his losses.

Mugabi, who has fought greats like Marvin Hagler and Terry Norris in a professional career that dates back to 1980, retired from the ring after being stopped in the first round of the WBO title fight by American Gerald McClelland in 1991.

He says `family trouble″ kept him out of the ring after that loss, but he regained the urge to fight after moving from his home in Tampa, Florida, to Australia 12 months ago.

``My timing was a bit off tonight but it was just the sort of fight I needed,″ Mugabi said. ``I’m already in pretty good shape. Next time I fight my timing will be back, and I’ll be electrifying.″

Mugabi said Kinsella, whose record dropped to 8-3-2, had been a surprisingly resilient opponent.

``It was a tough fight _ he didn’t come here for fun,″ he said. ``But I think I can beat anybody in Australia.″

Kinsella said he had never fought against anyone who punched as hard as Mugabi, even though many of the Ugandan’s wild, swinging blows were off target.

``He’s a massive puncher. He’s awesome,″ Kinsella said.

Trainer Bernie McFadden predicted Mugabi will win the Australian super-middleweight title within six months.

``The trouble has been John’s reputation as a puncher. No one in Australia wanted to fight him before tonight,″ said McFadden.

Promoter Joe Bugner, the former European, Commonwealth and British heavyweight champion, said he believes Mugabi still has a future in the ring.

``He was rusty tonight, but he still showed that he can punch and he has a lot of class,″ said Bugner, who plans to use Mugabi on a card in February.

Mugabi won by margins of 97-92 and 97-94 while the third judge scored the bout 95-95. The Ugandan had a point deducted for punching after the bell in the ninth round.

Mugabi weighed 168 1/4 pounds for the fight while the 30-year-old Kinsella came in at 177 3/4.

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