Ayekoo GBA!

BY: Ekow Asmah
Nii Lante Vanderpuiye

A bonus row has been on the menu this week, pitting the Youth and Sports Minister, Nii Lante Vanderpuye, against the Ghana Football Association led by Mr Kwesi Nyantakyi.

Yet, it is a different organisation, Ghana Boxing Authority (GBA), presided over by Peter Zwennes that gets my attention this week. 

On Tuesday, July 5, the GBA presented a cheque for $4,800 to David Kotei ‘Poison’, Ghana's first world champion in any discipline, and another cheque for $3,600 to Ebo Danquah, a former WBC International super flyweight king. 

The payments were a grant from a World Boxing Council (WBC) fund purposed for rehabilitation of some of its former champions.

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Boxing is not a sport for the pious, neither is it for the coward. It is a sport for the disciplined, courageous yet cautious executor, defending himself or herself at all times. 

Often, the practitioners endure disfigured faces, spilled blood, blurred vision, exhaustion, hospitalisation, and in the worst cases paralysis. 

Indeed, between the four ropes, the lives of many pugilists have been placed on the altar, as a sacrifice to the gods of boxing. Two middleweight gladiators, Briton Michael Watson and American Gerald McClellan, readily come to mind.

Other dangers include mental imbalance exemplified by Oliver McCall during his world heavyweight title rematch with challenger Lennox Lewis. It was even a miracle McCall survived past 18 months from birth, when he fell from a third storey window, looking more dead than alive. 

Parkinson Syndrome, a debilitating disease affecting mind and muscle that affected both Muhammad Ali and his predecessor, Sugar Ray Robinson, sums up the dangers of the sport, in spite of the rewards of grandeur, a surefire way out of poverty.

Yet, some fall into drug culture, challenges of lifestyle management, ending up with more partners and dependents than necessary, ending up as paupers, a state unworthy of the toils and hazards they endured.

So, it was refreshing to see last week the former WBC featherweight king Kotei, famously known in boxing circles as D.K. Poison, at the Media Centre of the Accra Sports Stadium looking fresh and feeling strong physically, and I suspect, spiritually and mentally, too. 

Again, I was excited to see and feel the excitement in his eyes and in his spirit, as he rose at my approach, and bear-hugged me, before all the executives of the GBA, including its president, Mr Zwennes. 

Not only gratifying was it for me to continue to enjoy the friendship of Kotei, whom I had not seen since 1996 after I published my first book, ‘The D.K. Poison Story’, but also to share that moment of recognition for the historic figure, in whose path subsequent world champions, Azumah Nelson, Nana Yaw Konadu, Ike Quartey, Alfred Kotey, Joshua Clottey and Joseph Agbeko have walked and inspired many others.

Later, while reflecting on the grant, its purpose of rehabilitating the WBC's veteran retired champions, I was even more gratified in the due diligence of the GBA, their persistence and determination to help invigorate the spirit of Kotei and Danquah, the first two beneficiaries of the grant so far.

I throw salute to the president and the executives of the GBA — who hardly get acknowledged, much less get commendation — for their inclination to seeking the welfare of retired boxers under their auspices.

Also, kudos to the GBA for thinking of the welfare of other retired boxers of note, including ex-world champions, Nana Yaw Konadu and Alfred Kotey.

Just as the WBC has spared a thought for the welfare of other beneficiaries such as Gerald McClellan, whose health was sacrificed between the four ropes, I recommend to the GBA to follow suit, and rehabilitate other retired boxers needing same gesture. Ayekoo GBA.