FEATURE: Fare Thee Well, boxing’s great!

BY: Bernard Neequaye

The demise of former President Jerry John Rawlings is not only a loss to the nation but a hit to boxing as a sport in Ghana.

Mr Rawlings played significant roles in the successes of so many Ghanaian boxers throughout his life. His love for the sport was enormous even after his tenure in office.

I remember my first encounter with him at the Bukom Boxing Arena in 2017 when Isaac Dogboe fought Javier Chacon. It was at that point that I realised how much he loved boxing after Chacon retired in the sixth round.

Former President Rawlings told a group of journalists after the bout that we should do everything to project Dogboe into becoming an international star.

He was right. Talent alone cannot make one attain stardom because you need a good marketing strategy to achieve that.

At the end, it paid off and Dogboe became a world champion a year later despite not reigning for long.

But long before Dogboe, Rawlings contributed immensely to the development of boxing from the days of legendary Azumah Nelson’s amateur days.

That legacy will continue to linger in the minds of boxing folks till eternity.

Ghana’s golden generation

Ghana won four world titles under the tenure of Rawlings as ahead of State and President from 1979 to 2000.

In 1984 when Azumah defeated Wilfredo Gomez to win the WBC featherweight title, Rawlings was Head of State .

He declared Azumah a national asset and ensured the state supported him to get to the top. The legendary fighter continues to hold Rawlings in high esteem for making him follow his passion rather than joining the army.

Then came Nana Yaw Konadu in 1989 when he beat Gilberto Roman to win the WBC super flyweight belt.

The Brong-Ahafo native described Rawlings as a ‘father’ throughout his professional career. It was not a surprise  because ex-President accommodated boxers during his era in charge.

Nana Konadu was full of praise for Rawlings for motivating him to achieve success. That to him made him who he is today and he will forever be grateful to his mentor.

In 1994, Ike ‘Bazooka’ Quartey and Alfred ‘Cobra’ Kotey emerged as Ghana’s new world champions. Quartey won the WBA welterweight belt while Kotey snatched the WBO bantamweight title.

Quartey told me in one of our usual conversations that Rawlings supported him and his closest friend Kotey to participate in the 88 Olympics in Seoul during their amateur days. He said that formed the basis of their success as fighters.

Until Rawlings’ demise, Quartey was a close ally who had plans of naming a ward in his yet-to-be-completed hospital after his hero for the immense role he played in his career.

Worth celebrating

Rawlings was always present at boxing events till he died last Thursday at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital. The love to see boxing grow in the country was a strong desire for him.

Having contributed immensely to the sport we continue to love today, I call on the Ghana Boxing Authority (GBA) to honour the man who gave his all for the sport.

It will be worthy to stage a fight night in his honour before his burial to celebrate his years of service to a sport he loved most.

Subsequently, the GBA must have an annual fight night in his honour. It could be named ‘Rawlings Fight Night’, which could be used to preach his legacy as one of the greatest Presidents of the land.

For the memories he left on the boxing scene, lovers of the sport will continue to hold him in high esteem. It must urge them on to work harder to make the sport a successful one.

Boxing will continue to miss your presence, Mr Rawlings. Fare Thee Well!