FEATURE: A year of mixed feelings!

Author: Bernard Neequaye

When Richard Commey defeated Isa Chaniev in February, I thought Ghana’s boxing year had rejuvenated following Isaac Dogboe’s world title loss in 2018 to Emanuel Navarrete.

Little did I know that it was going to end the same way it ended for Dogboe a year ago. I don’t blame them for their unfortunate defeats which brought Ghana’s boxing to its toes once again but I believe the focus should now turn to 2020 and how to come back stronger.

I was devastated at the way the year ended, especially when Commey’s roller coaster career was taking shape after winning that world title. I was expecting him to hold on to his crown going into next year, but having done it before it won’t be a surprise to see him bounce back with a bang next year.

There were a lot of positives to be taken from the boxing fraternity this year despite the nation losing its sole world title to America’s Teofimo Lopez at the end of the year.

It was a year that came with five world championship fights for Ghanaian fighters in Richard Commey, Isaac Dogboe and Patrick Allotey, with two wins and three losses.

During this period, Commey became a world champion and defended his IBF lightweight title once against Raymundo Beltran before suffering a second round knockout to Lopez last Saturday.

Dogboe on the other hand failed in his bid to regain his WBO super bantamweight title which he lost to Emanuel Navarrete in May and Allotey couldn’t take advantage of his world title shot against Jaime Munguiao in September.

Commey and Dogboe
In a year that began on a bright note for Commey, I didn’t expect Ghana boxing to finish 2019 without a world title after Dogboe having the chance to reclaim his belt.

My focus next year for these great boxers will be to see them climb back the ladder after their fall. Dogboe has age on his side to deliver another world title for the country and must come back in splendid fashion against his next opponent in order to avoid a third consecutive defeat.

In my view, Commey remains one of the toughest opponents in the lightweight division and winning big in subsequent bouts could earn him another shot at another world title next year.

He has done it before and I entreat him to put behind him the surprise loss to Lopez in order to imitate the likes of legendary Azumah Nelson and Ike ‘Bazooka’ Quartey who suffered defeats at certain stages of their careers but came back stronger.

If I am to grade the world championship fighters of the year, Commey will stand tall among his peers, having secured Ghana’s ninth world title and defended it twice before his defeat.

I call on the Ghana Boxing Authority (GBA) to put in place measures that could help focus on the development of the sport in the country. This year saw the rebirth of the boxing league, but financial constraints affected its progression in terms of consistency.

It was one of the best measures that was reintroduced by the GBA to help revive the sport through the amateur ranks to the professional level and with the government’s support, it will unearth more talent as well as give them the platform to compete before turning professionals.

I commend the GBA for such an initiative but I call on them to ensure it becomes a consistent feature on the sport’s calendar in order to help boxers have fights to their credit in the coming year.

Prospects for 2020
Going into the next year, bantamweight fighter Duke Micah looks ripe to challenge for a world title following two important wins this year. It was in his interest to have returned into the ring with those victories after being out of the ring for over a year.

Having stayed out through inactivity due to promotional issues with Real Deal Promotions, the 28-year-old chalked up two successes in 2019 when he defeated Luis Suarez Cruz and Janiel Rivera.

With the New Year approaching, I am looking forward to seeing Micah finish up next year as a champion by taking advantage of any shot that comes his way in 2020.

I trust the likes of Emmanuel ‘Gameboy’ Tagoe, Wasiru ‘Gyatabi’ Mohammed, Isaac Sackey and Manyo Plange to step up in their respective divisions to become world beaters after a successful year under review.

Tagoe’s decision to relocate to the United States last month was the best decision to have happened to his career and with new promoter Peter Kahn by his side, I expect him to get closer to a lightweight title as soon as possible.

Another promising fighter who finished the year on a bright note was Wasiru who managed to clinch the WBO Global crown in July. He has the chance to be great in the coming year and I want him to go for it.

With all these prospects in 2020, it will take financial support to get the boxers to where they belong and I once again want to use this medium to call on the Ministry of Youth and Sports to intervene to help boxing as a whole.

Meanwhile, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Richard Commey as my Sportsman of the Year on winning Ghana’s ninth world title in 2019. Despite losing it in the final month of the year, I don’t see any athlete coming closer to him and I want to wish him well in the coming year.