The controversial manner in which Richard Commey lost his maiden world title shot in 2016 suggests the Ghanaian world title hopeful would have to sort out any possible slip up which cost him the International Boxing Federation (IBF) world lightweight title in his first attempt before entering the ring on February 2 to fight Russian Isa Chaniev in Frisco, Texas.
Real champions, they say, are made through one's ability to come back stronger after a major defeat or upset. When he steps into the ring at Ford Centre in Frisco to battle the tough Russian, Commey must prove himself to Ghanaians and the entire boxing world that he has corrected the costly mistakes he made against then IBF champion Robert Easter Junior via a split decision and is ready to occupy the IBF throne.
The 31-year-old Ghanaian has no other choice than to sort out his flaws that denied him a world title glory against Easter Jr and prepare well for Chaniev who will be out to prove his mettle in the biggest fight of his career. Logically, his camp came under severe criticism after that los, with many boxing enthusiasts blaming the defeat on his corner, which was then headed by his longtime trainer, Lawrence Carl Lokko.
Commey put up a dominant performance and appeared to be leading on the scorecards before giving away the 12th round which Easter Jr won and nearly recorded a knockdown after landing a ferocious right hook. And expectedly, the blame game began with many questioning Lokko's tactics and experience to lead Commey in such a big ticket fight as they claimed the Ghanaian lost from his corner.
Despite all the blame game, the Ghana Boxing Authority (GBA) protested Commey's defeat to Easter Jr and described it as a daylight robbery in a fight they believed the Ghanaian won after dropping his opponent in the eighth round.
Alhaji Tofik, an executive member of the GBA, told the Graphic Sports after the bout that his outfit was shocked by the decision of the referees which he described as a "stolen verdict" because he felt Commey won on the night.
"All those who watched the fight, including the GBA officials, were convinced that Commey was the aggressor who left his opponent with no option than to hold him (Commey) throughout the fight.
“It was another day of shame for boxing officiating and we of the GBA are obliged to state our position and let the world know that the split decision was a daylight robbery,” said the veteran promoter.
Claims by the Ghanaian that he was robbed compelled IBF President , Daryl Peoples, handing Commey an opportunity to fight Russia's Denis Shafikov in a world title eliminator to Easter Jr's crown, which the Ghanaian lost on a split decision.
Naturally disappointed at his two consecutive losses and a missed chance to be world champion, Commey returned home to revive his career and managed to win a unanimous points win against Hedi Slimani to snatch the WBC International Silver lightweight title in March 2017 before relocating to the USA.
The win over Slimani landed him another world title eliminator against Alejandro Luna. This time, however, Commey opted to make changes to his technical team by parting ways with his longtime trainer Lokko for a more experienced trainer in American Andre Rozier ahead of the fight. The new technical direction worked for Commey as he earned a sixth round knockout victory over Luna to land himself a rematch with Easter Jr, but the IBF title holder champion opted to fight WBC lightweight titlist Mikey Garcia in a unification bout instead of facing the Ghanaian in a rematch. Unfortunately for Easter Jr, he lost his title to Garcia.
Luck smiled on the Ghanaian finally was he was handed a new opponent in Garcia, but like Easter Jr, he was not into fighting Commey and rather vacated the belt to move up weight two divisions to challenge Errol Spence Jr at welterweight on March 16.
With the IBF title vacant, the world sanctioning body ordered Commey to reach an agreement with Chaniev (13-1, 6 KOs) for the title.
During his tribulations last year, Commey fought and destroyed Yardley Cruz in two rounds in a contest to keep him active while warming up for his second shot at a world title to make him Ghana's ninth world champion.
Commey’s experience against Easter Jr provides enough red flags for the Ghanaian to avoid the mistake of underrating Chaniev despite his low profile in the sport. Commey knows too well that he would need to work hard and employ smart tactics to win convincingly against the Russian.
As the saying goes, "It is better late than never". It will be in Commey's own interest to become a world champion at this stage of his career, especially as he does not have age on his side.
The February 2 fight represents Commey's finest opportunity and his biggest test yet as a boxer, which could earn him the needed respect both locally and globally if he puts up a masterclass against Chaniev, who will only be fighting outside Eastern Europe for the first time in his career. A win over Chaniev would also make a long journey back to the world title count rather than making it a nine-day wonder.
I trust Commey to deliver on the night by following in the footsteps of Isaac Dogboe, when he defied all odds to beat Mexico's Jessie Magdalena to win the WBO World super bantamweight crown in April last year.
Commey's ability to reach greater heights in the sport lies in his own hands — and herart — and a win against Chaniev will set the pace for numerous achievements in the future.
But until then, let us as Ghanaians rally behind our new hope to deliver us another world title just two months after Dogboe lost the nation's sole global crown to Emanuel Navarrete on December 8, 2018.