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Despite emergence of power blocks... Banku steals show

BY: Enoch Darfah Frimpong

In a year of modest glory by Ghana’s own lofty standards on the international stage, controversies among power blocs took the shine off any gains as professional boxing endured a mixed fate.

Whether in the shape of the fiasco of Joseph Agbeko’s homecoming bfight or Joshua Clottey’s no-show in, or any of Bukom Banku’s class acts in the ring or his near fallout with his managers, professional boxing ignited both hope and heat in near equal measure.

Indeed, none of those issues tore the sport apart in the year under review than the power play that has eventually landed in the law courts, with the board of the Ghana Boxing Authority as defendants and some stakeholders, including the United Boxing Coaches Association, as plaintiffs.

In a showdown that predates the year under review, the boxing coaches have led a group of agitators seeking to ‘democratise’ Ghana boxing, demanding that the administrative board must be elected “in line with International Olympic Committee rules”.

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Perhaps, the group was emboldened by the IOC’s order which necessitated Ghana’s brief suspension from the Olympic movement until all associations under the Ghana Olympic Committee elected their officers.

Professional boxing, it must be stated, is not under the IOC, and this argument has supported government’s appointment of officers for the GBA. That notwithstanding, Ghana sports authorities, acting through the rechristened National Sports Authority, gave its blessing to the intended ‘democratisation’ of Ghana Boxing when it directed the GBA to lay the foundation for the eventual election of officers.

While the GBA, by its actions, has yielded to the fate of having to elect its officers, the body has clashed with its adversaries over the modalities, until the resort to the courts.

The boardroom wrangling notwithstanding, professional boxing at home was awash with activities, with Braimah ‘Bukom Banku’ Kamoko capping a fine year with another vintage performance to win the vacant World Boxing Organisation (WBO) Africa cruiserweight title in Accra.

That prize on December 1 when he stopped Pascal Ndomba of Tanzania was the second successful title fight for the local boxing maverick, a hero to many who adds entertainment to the science of boxing. Earlier on February 25, Banku stopped Sweden-based Ugandan Hamza Wandera in three rounds at the Accra Stadium.

Those were memorable occasions marked by the boxer’s off-ring antics, the second victory consigning his publicised fallout with his managers GoldenConcepts into history.

For the period GoldenConcepts and its promotional wing, GoldenMike Promotions, salvaged Banku from the depths of misery and unfulfilled potential, the marriage seemed a perfect union from heaven. But the break-up, occasioned by supposed insubordination by the boxer, plus alleged outrageous demands on his managers, may have provoked a rethink.

Once differences were ironed out, Banku became the perfect product for GoldenMike’s last event on December 1 when he won the WBO Africa cruiserweight title.

It took the intervention of the security personnel, however, to save the skin of Banku’s then stable mate, Emmanuel Tagoe, when GoldenConcepts decided to strike on the eve of Tagoe’s challenge for and eventual win of the vacant World Boxing Association (WBA) International lightweight title in Accra.

An application for injunction to prevent Tagoe from fight on the November 10 bill, also at the Accra Stadium, failed before GoldenConcepts stormed the weigh-in with policemen to attempt to haul Tagoe off the scale until he paid various sums of money he owed the management.

GoldenMike Promotions had earlier had a battle with Joseph Agbeko after the former International Boxing Federation (IBF) bantamweight champion pulled out of the bill very late. Indeed, that issue still appears unresolved to the satisfaction of factions.

But Banku, at least, provided face-saving performances for Ghana boxing as the nation’s main title hopefuls failed to land the title shots they craved.

Former International Boxing Federation (IBF) welterweight champion Joshua Clottey and two-time former IBF bantamweight champion Joseph Agbeko went without challenging for a title in the year. The two have held Ghana’s flag on the international boxing map recently, but with their titles long captured by opponents, they have also slipped down the rankings in their respective divisions.

Ultimately, they have languished on the periphery of major boxing shows while mates such as Manuel Marquez (in the case of Clottey) and Nonito Donaire (for Agbeko) stole the limelight with impressive outings.

It was Marquez who stopped the once undisputed world champion and seven-weight titlist, Manny Pacquiao, in six rounds while Donaire has moved on to become a multiple titlist.

Ghana boxing was not all despair, though. The emergence of BabyJet Promotions owned by Black Stars skipper Asamoah Gyan breathed some fresh air into local professional boxing, marking its debut promotion with the crowd-puller between Joseph Tagoe and George Ashie at the Accra Stadium on November 10. Tagoe won the bout and the vacant WBA International lightweight title.

On a comparatively low-key fashion, Euroka Boxing Promotions debuted with Malik Jabir versus Korley Collison at the Lebanon House in Accra, with Collison clinching the vacant World Boxing Foundation (WBF) Africa lightweight title in June.

There were other big winners in the year. Samuel Amoako won the WBO Africa lightweight title; Ebenezer Lantei Lamptey won the vacant national light-welterweight title in February, while George Ashie won the vacant Commonwealth lightweight title in April.

Story by Michael Quaye/Graphic Sports