FEATURE: Struggles of Ghanaian boxers abroad

BY: Bernard Neequaye

All over the world, boxers travel from their home countries to the United States of America in pursuit of a boxing career in the world's boxing capital.

The quest to make it big in the fistic sport has often compelled many ambitious Ghanaian fighters and world title hopefuls to relocate to the USA, easily the world's biggest boxing market, chasing their dreams and for greener pastures.

From the era of legendary Azumah Nelson to more recent former world champions such as Isaac Dogboe and Richard Commey, Ghanaian boxers continue to live the American dream in search of world championship fights.

Aside the few successful ones, many Ghanaian boxers have failed to make it to the top after relocating to the USA and had their hopes dashed. That famed American dream was, perhaps, not made for all boxing hopefuls.

Managerial and promotional issues have been the key factors blamed for the woes of these young and talented boxers when they relocate to the US. For others, adoption of bad character traits, culture shock and attitudinal problems have been attributed to their failed dreams and ambitions.

Former IBF bantamweight champion, Joseph Agbeko; ex-IBF welterweight titlist Joshua Clottey, Kofi Jantuah and Benjamin ‘Wonder’ Tackie have all recounted problems they had with managers and promoters during their professional careers in the US.

Agbeko and Clottey were both successful after winning world titles, but there is a belief that the two former champions could have achieved more than they accomplished if they had not encountered problems with their managers and promoters while based in the USA.

In separate chats, both fighters lamented to me how they were handed raw deals by their foreign handlers during the prime of their careers.
Agbeko spoke about his legal battles with legendary American promoter Don King, while Clottey enumerated issues with his manager Vincent Scolpino.

I decided to enquire from Michael Amoo-Bediako, CEO of Streetwise Management and the manager of former IBF lightweight champion Commey, on what it takes to relocate a fighter to the US and get the best out of him.

Bad managerial style

Mr Amoo-Bediako has been with Commey since 2010 and it took his boxer two attempts to become a world champion. In 2016. Commey lost to Robert Easter Jnr in his maiden championship fight before winning against Isa Chaniev on his second attempt three years later.

The UK-based Ghanaian manager says he had to work tirelessly to get Commey to where he is today after teaming up with renowned American promoter, Lou DiBella, of DiBella Entertainment.

“It is not easy to get a boxer out there,” Mr Amoo-Bediako told the Graphic Sports. “There have been so many fighters from Ghana who struggled to make it when they move to the US.

“I believe the major issue here remains bad management because when you relocate a boxer you have to ensure he is catered for properly,” he said.

Over the years, Ghanaian boxers have complained about being neglected by managers and promoters who moved them to the US.

The likes of Jantuah and Tackie, among others, were all victims of managerial neglect. Jantuah continues to blame his inability to win a world title on his struggles with Don King, after going over two years without a fight.

“I still regret ever meeting and signing with Don King because he is the reason I wasn’t able to become a world champion. He messed up my career at a time when I was supposed to be making waves. So many things go into a fighter becoming a champion and Don King didn’t help my case,” Jantuah recounted to the Graphic Sports.

Losing Focus

Despite alleged neglect by managers and promoters often cited by boxers as the main reasons behind their failed careers or sojourn of the USA, the lifestyle and attitude of others after relocating to the US also contributed to their fall.

Some boxers travel abroad hopeful of advancing their careers but later get distracted by many external factors. This is often true of boxers from Africa who get influenced and distracted from their mission by Western lifestyle on their arrival in the US.

Mr Amoo-Bediako feels the distraction abroad makes these boxers forget their humble backgrounds and their mission abroad.

“The distractions are many out there in the US and it usually get into their heads when they arrive there. It is a big problem because you can’t force a fighter to be disciplined. The best one can do is to guide his career, so I feel a solution could be ensuring they come back home frequently on vacation so they understand the expectations in Ghana from them.

“Fighters home and abroad must always know that they are out there to defend their country and stay as role models and I believe getting that across could help tame them,” he stated.