Breaking with the past

Author: John Ashong-Mettle
Azumah Nelson in his heyday
Azumah Nelson in his heyday

Nobody can deny the fact that Ghana is credited with what is first in many respects. Dr Ahmling Chapman Nyaho broke the ice when he became the first African to break into the United Nations ranks in the 1940s.

Twelve years later, Ghana scored another first when Alex Quayson Sackey, cherished in Africa and world diplomatic ranks was elected to be president of the United Nations General Assembly, the first from the continent.

Is not true that Ghana earned the badge as the first from Africa to produce a champion in the realm of boxing in 1951 when John Theophilus Otoo, better known as Roy Ankrah, sold a purple-patch performance to annex the British Commonwealth featherweight title? The victory over robust and cracked pugilist, Ronnie Clayton of Britain in an enthralling and feisty encounter at the Empress Hall, Earls Court, thrust the driver-mechanic in the Army into stardom as one of the best in the Commonwealth and the world at large.       

Journey to stardom

Though the journey to stardom was almost an odyssey, the Ghanaian boxer strove to the apex of success with admirable and remarkable victories over Kid Hesse, who wrapped up the featherweight title in his absence, before a fourth round defeat of Stoker Kid Parry of Nigeria in the West African  featherweight title bout made him the cynosure of all eyes.

By November 1950, he had fought 15 cracked boxers, putting him in pole position for the Commonwealth featherweight crown.

He knocked the stuffing out of 10 boxers through knockouts, four on points, and one through disqualification which earned him nicknames such as Black Flash, Fighting Octopus, among others.

This man from the Ga tribe put the country on the map, underscoring Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah’s mantra that the Black Man has the nous to run his own affairs.

Until Azumah Nelson burst onto international consciousness from Ghana, the featherweight and super featherweight division had been perceived as the exclusive preserves of Mexicans and Americans of Mexican origin.

For pundits and stakeholders of the noble art of self defence, one of the most confounding tales of boxing bordering on myth-that boxing of the modern age has had to live with, is the legend of Azumah Nelson. This man for 12 years endeared himself to the hearts of Africans and the world with successive defences of his titles in the most dangerous divisions in one of the most dangerous sports in the world.

Ghana, the cradle of boxing on the continent, brought to fame a young man from a strong a heritage of boxing in the shape of Ike Bazooka Quartey.

From 1983, when Ike Kwatelai Quartey, better known as Bazooka, defeated Mory Mohammed, he held many Africans and boxing fans the world over in thrall.

Ike Quartey again showed to the world what he had up his sleeves when he knocked the stuffing out of Crisanto Espana in a grueling encounter to win the WBA Welterweight title in 1994. Alfred Kotey, on July 30,1994 followed in the footsteps of his compatriots, garnering the WBO bantamweight title.

It is worth mentioning that the 1970s produced an armada of great professionals such as Attuquaye Clottey, D.K. Poision, Sulley Shittu, Eddie Blay, among others, whose purple-patch performances lured patrons and neutrals effortlessly to the grounds anytime there was a boxing bout involving the idols of the fans.

While it can be argued the 1980s to mid-1990s were mainly in the hands of Professor Barima Azumah Nelson, Ike Bazooka Quartey, Nana Yaw Konadu, Ebo  Danquah and Alfred Kotey were not left of the race.

The Boxing Professor for a long time was the driving force behind the country’s success in sports, as well as the magnet which pulled all shades of sporting fans to their television sets.

Those days we waited anxiously for the Professor’s duel at 3am. Even at the twilight of his career, Azumah Nelson’s performance was still a piece of bravado.

Ghana’s decades of failure

The late 1990s running over into the early 2000s, boxing go the short end of the stick owing to the meagre financial grants to the Ghana Boxing Authority for development programmes. It was a concern for anyone interested in the prosperity of boxing. The discipline was faced with the problem of maintaining respectable standards. To date managers and promoters can not pay decent wages and build the infrastructure needed to nurture and maintain the boys in a competitive atmosphere leading to many of our bright youngsters leaving for America to seek fame and succor.

It is sad to think that the promising boxers such as David Odoi Tetteh, popularly called Gbese Tyson, Raymond Narh, and Ben ‘Wonder’ Tackie, among others, have not been able to make success out of the art of noble self defence.

Ghana still clings on to Clement Quartey’s silver medal as the highest it has won at the Olympics. Ghana is believed to be living on past glories whose boxers covered themselves with so much glory and lustre at the WBC,WBA and WBO versions, but whose current array of boxers are not on a par with their predecessors, have given glimpses of riding on the crest of a wave in no time.

There is no denying the fact that countries reckoned to be minnows in fistic sport are now making the grade and grabbing the headlines. That said I differ in opinion with the prophets of malediction who assert that boxing on the local terrain is nothing to write home about and it is dying a natural death.

Though I am diametrically opposed to the soothsayers predicting Armageddon for Ghana boxing, that notwithstanding, there are those who are killing the sport by arranging cheap and nasty opponents for our home-grown talents.

Of course, in between, Joseph King Kong Agbeko and Joshua “The Hitter”Clottey clinched world title victories. But I will be very honest that these victories have never been enough to assuage the frustrations that accompany the country’s ritual of misadventures in international meetings.

I can say without apology that patronage of the sport has been on the up and up which is indicative that if skill and wisdom enter the hearts of managers and stakeholders, that knowledge becomes pleasant to them. And discretion and understanding watch over them, the country’s boxing will rise to the occasion. As a keen follower lately, I have been held in charm by the synergy of boxing promotions where I can say without a shred of doubt that reliving our glory days is not far-fetched.

It is against this backdrop that I envisage the future to be auspicious.

Heralding the new dawn

The duo of Bastie and Issah Samir, Richard Oblitey Commey, Duke Micah and Michael Dogbe represent the cutting-edge for success. Going forward I want to zero in on each boxer to profile them regarding when they started boxing and what I reckon their basis what is the basis for their chances of glory.

In recent past past, the country has churned out loads of young talent, but none quite outstanding as Bastie Samir and Commonwealth and Lightweight titlist Richard Oblittey Commey whose clinical deliveries in the boxing rings will pave the way for Ghana to get a crack on either the WBA or WBC versions of the titles.

As a keen follower of the sports I can say on authority that if the past belonged to an armada of truly great professionals such as Azumah Nelson, Ike Bazooka Quartey and Alfred Kotey, the present and perhaps the future is cast on concrete with a gifted generation led by Bastie Samir,Richard Oblittey Commey, Issah Samir and a host of others. I believe what will represent the cutting-edge for success depend how the administrators are able to match the boxers with organizational skills. Going forward I want to throw the spotlight on these budding stars who are being proclaimed world beaters before they get a crack on the world title fights.

His name is Bastie Samir. Interestingly “Doovia or The Beast” resonates with his admirers as soon as in sight. Bastie Samir born to a dad, a former boxer of mark kicked-start preaching the gospel of punches to the head and face and body of opponents in the ring early.

Obviously interviewing the youngster for the first following his return from the United States of America, where he had working relationship with the flamboyant Floyd May weather, as sparring partner, came over to me as educated.

At some point, the Doovia’s instinct which had taken its abode in the teenage sensation and prodigious boxing talent began to itch itself and to assert its freedom into the boxing aura.

As it were having the bend or gut feeling gained supremacy over the academic work.

Given that he is a youngster and living under the tutelage of his inspirational father, solemn and decisive moment had dawned and it will require sticking it out for the new path in spite of the odds that were stacked against him to prefer education to boxing.

And so, like a carnivore let loose Bastie Doovia Samir, jettison or threw overboard the Academic aura to hunt for opponents and handlers in the fistic sport.

There is no doubt that the kind of never-say-die passion and aggression to ride on the crest of a wave can be said to have been the driving force in the young boxer’s string of impressive haul of 15 fights and 14 wins through knockouts.

He clawed acclamation when American flamboyant pugilist, Floyd May weather enlisted the Ghanaian teenage boxing prodigy, going forward the famous boxing trainer and manager Kennedy Adams of the Golden Boy Promotions seeing the prodigious talent of the youngster signed a managerial and promotion contract to have Bastie Samir under his tutelage for harnessing.

According to the boxer, preferring the fistic sport contrary to family considerations has no regrets for this course of action.

The determined chap averred that his interest in boxing was aroused and heightened by the inspiration he received from the exploits of his dad and former boxing greats Azumah Nelson and Ike Bazooka Quartey.

 Amateur Rank

As an amateur in the national team, the Black Bombers, the young chap rose to the pantheon of success, annexing two gold medals and a haul of silver medals to his name.

Bastie Samir in the amateur ranks held his patrons and team officials in charm with his commanding fistic potential, thus earning the badge as captain of the Black Bombers.

The boxer, to date receives rave reviews for his flowery and commanding prodigious talent. Before turning professional, Bastie Samir aka Doovia had bagged the Sports Writers Association of Ghana (SWAG) Boxer of the Year Award.

Romance With The Golden Boy Promotion

I have seen videos of his training regimen with Kennedy Adams, the trainer who has won renown and fame to producing some of the best in the fistic sports and it is against this backdrop that the future of the Ghanaian boxer is auspicious and ready to make absolute spoil of any opponents.

At this point one envisages that the boxing in Ghana is auspicious.

Issah Samir

What could one write about Issah Samir without referring to his boxing brother Bastie Samir?

Issah the younger was born some twenty years ago, and bred in Accra. He started boxing at a tender age under the aegis of Coach Ofosu Asare.

Issah Samir was discovered by a philanthropist and boxing buff Alhaji Abudulai Yakubu.Having observed his potential, he introduced him to Coach Asare to harness the potential of the young chap.

As deputy captain of the Black Bombers in 2008, Issah made light work of opponents that came his way. At the Beijing Olympic Games, Issah Samir gave good account of himself to the admiration fans and key stakeholders cum pundits.

The impression he gave was that one day he would be world champion.

As an amateur Issah participated in many championships and won a medal haul comprising gold, silver and bronze.

He was two times West African champion and bagged successes on the domestic scene winning the national titles twice.

He turned professional and soon,he was clubbing down his opponents and clawing admiration and has been snapped by the famous Golden Boy Promotions in the United States of America.

So far he has had 15 fights and won 14:12 through knockouts and two by unanimous decisions.

I will pull the brakes here to come back in the next edition with a profile of Richard Oblittey Commey, currently preparing feverishly to cross swords with cracked boxer John Tabanao in no time.