FEATURE: Grudge fights and their implications!

BY: Bernard Neequaye

Boxing bouts usually thrive on the hype around them. It is in this light that enthusiasts and pundits clamour to see explosive fighters together to slug it out.

Bringing two equally good boxers together to excite spectators is phenomenal and done in every part of the world. However, it implications could be dire.

There have been several crack fights in boxing history such as the famous ‘Thrilla in Manila’ between legendary Muhammad Ali and Joe Fraizer in 1975.

In 1996 and 1997, Mike ‘Iron’ Tyson fought Evander Holyfield in some of the best grudge fights ever. The trend continues in recent times.

Middleweight greats, Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin slugged it out in 2017 and 2018 in another crack bout. The latest addition was Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury in 2018 respectively

Over the years, grudge fights have gained the tendency to lift fighters or even kill their careers. Many fighters have seen their bright careers end abruptly due to a particular crack bout they walked into.

Locally, hype around particular boxers at a given time usually influence grudge bouts. There were several instances when these boxers came together just to prove themselves.

Unanswered questions continue to dominate the public space as to the motivation behind some of these bouts. Yes, boxing is expected to be thrilling without emotional attachments.

Pairing prospects from the same country to fight sometimes bring out the best in the sport but elsewhere, emerging talents are allowed to attain stardom before slugging it out.

Why can’t we practise that? Why do we have to put two emerging fighters together to fight when they can build their careers before coming back to give us a thriller?

Through such crack fights, many of our talents have seen their careers end abruptly. Let’s look at some of these bouts.

Floyd Robertson vs Joe Tetteh
Division: Featherweight
Year: October 5, 1963

Robertson and Tetteh clashed for the Commonwealth title in one of the biggest contests at the time. Robertson was the more experienced boxer with 43 bouts to his credit.

Tetteh had 33 fights times when the bout took place at the Accra Sports Stadium in October, 1963. It was a fierce encounter between the pair but Robertson emerged victorious with an 11th round knockout.

It was a thriller between two great boxers but the encounter did no good to Tetteh whose bright career faded out after the bout.

“Floyd Robertson and Joe Tetteh were great fighters when they challenged each other. It was a very thrilling bout which I think ended the career of Tetteh,” said Samir Captan, former Ghana Boxing Authority (GBA) president and one of Ghana’s foremost boxing promoters.

“We didn’t hear anything meaningful from him after that fight and I think it really affected his bright career,” he told the Graphic Sports.

George ‘King’ Aidoo vs Richard ‘Scorpion’ Ofosu
Division: Middleweight
Year: April 30, 1977

George Aidoo, an American-born Ghanaian travelled to Ghana to face Richard Ofosu for his national title in 1977. It was his seventh fight in the country against a stylish fighter in Ofosu.

The grudge fight became Samir Captan’s Sikaprix Promotions’ first promotional bout but Aidoo failed to unseat Ofosu by losing on points after 15 rounds.

A disappointed Aidoo returned to the US after the defeat and became a journeyman. He never returned to Ghana to fight again.

“He was the first fighter that I managed and promoted and that fight ended everything for him. He returned to the United States and never came back to Ghana,” Captan said.

Ofosu, however, failed to live up to expectation afterwards and could manage only 11 bouts with eight victories in a short career.

Ike ‘Bazooka’ Quartey vs Tubor Briggs
Division: Super lightweight
Year: December 2, 1989

Ike Quartey turned professional shortly after his participation in the Seoul Olympic Games in 1988. At the time Quartey was knocking out opponents for fun, a Ghana-based Nigerian Tubor Briggs was making waves in the country.

The two fighters attracted so many plaudits from pundits and enthusiasts with a call to have them slug it out. It started from the promoters, actually.

“I remember Briggs was undefeated and deadly and I was handling Ike Quartey,” said Yoofi Boham, then manager of young Quartey.

“Sandy Anderson was also promoting Tubor Briggs and we always argued over who was the better fighter.”

“That was the beginning of the fight. We made it happen and Ike shocked the entire nation with a first round stoppage victory,” he recounted.

The bout enhanced Quartey’s career and local dominance. He went on to become a world champion five years later while Briggs’ career crashed after the bout.

George ‘Red Tiger’ Ashie vs Emmanuel ‘Gameboy’ Tagoe
Division: Lightweight
Year: 2012

One of the recent grudge fights was between George Ashie and Emmanuel Tagoe in a World Boxing Association (WBA) International lightweight championship in 2012.

In the build-up to the fight, Ashie was the favourite and the top boxer but Tagoe managed to jab and dance around in the ring to win a majority decision at the end.

It was evident from the opening bell that Ashie underrated and opted for a knockout win over a stylish Tagoe who went in for the points.

Eight years after the bout, Tagoe is on course to land himself a world title shot while Ashie is struggling to make it back to the top with inconsistent results.

“I don’t believe that defeat to Tagoe affected my career because I still feel I won that battle. So many things happened and that is what I blame,” Ashie told the Graphic Sports.

“I still think I have a future with my new promoters, MTK, and with hard work I can reach higher heights,” he added.

However, Captan, who was in charge of the GBA at the time thinks otherwise.

“I got a Commonwealth fight for Ashie in the United Kingdom before the Tagoe bout. He and his handlers refused and opted to fight Tagoe and that was it for him.”

“That fight really affected his career because he is yet to make it to where we expected him to be.”

Despite all these endings, grudge bouts continue to dominate our boxing space. For example, Isaac Dogboe and Wasiru Mohammed have continuously been asked to challenge each other.

I don’t think there is any problem with having such a fight but what happens after the bout? I believe we must encourage our fighters to conquer the world before fighting each other.

This to me would prevent the continuous destruction of talents whenever they challenge themselves.