It was a tough and difficult year for all Ghanaian fighters (both home and abroad) due to the COVID-19 outbreak but the year well for bantamweight contender Jessie Manyo Plange.
Plange managed to finish 2020 as the second-best rated bantamweight by the World Boxing Association (WBA) with an upcoming world title shot in the coming months.
His year began with a fifth-round stoppage win over Nigeria’s Sherif Kareem in January but the COVID-19 outbreak in March halted all plans for the year. However, Plange forced a unanimous decision win over Burkina Faso’s Alexis Kabore in December to finish the year on a bright note.
It has been a long road for the 32-year-old whose rise in the sport has taken longer than expected. The talented boxer is yet to fight in a major championship despite being a prospect since his amateur days.
The Ghanaian is expected to realise his full potential this year, having broken into the top two of the ratings, with WBA titleholder Guillermo Rigondeaux or Gary Antonio Russel in line to face Plange.
Despite Plange’s impressive performance in 2020, several other boxers made significant strides in the year under review. It became an important step in their careers coming into this year.
Dogboe and Tagoe’s return
Former World Boxing Organisation’s (WBO) super bantamweight champion Isaac ‘Royal Storm’ Dogboe and Emmanuel ‘Gameboy’ Tagoe made their much-anticipated returns in over a year.
Dogboe stopped Chris Avalos in eight rounds to mark his first win since losing consecutively to Emanuel Navarrete in 2018 and 2019.
It was an emotional and important night for the ex-champion who needed the win to boost his confidence ahead of his career rejuvenation.
On Tagoe’s side, the WBO lightweight title-chasing fighter forced a deserved unanimous decision victory over Mason Menard after over a year of absence in the ring.
The 32-year-old Ghanaian hopes his win will propel him to a championship fight this year with his sight set on the WBO titleholder Vasyl Lomachenko.
World title fight
Just when everyone thought the year was over for Ghanaian boxers due to the COVID-19 restrictions, a deal came through for Duke Micah to challenge John Riel Casimero for the WBO bantamweight belt in September.
Micah, the then undefeated boxer, failed to make any significant impact in the bout and was knocked out in two rounds by the Filipino.
The unsuccessful attempt denied Ghana a third world title in three years after Dogboe and Commey in 2018 and 2019 respectively.
A win by Micah could have climaxed the year for Ghana boxing but his abysmal performance ended up denting the rich boxing image of the country on the international stage.
It was a bad year for the likes of former International Boxing Federation (IBF) bantamweight titlist Joseph KingKong Agbeko, Wasiru ‘Gyatabi’ Mohammed and Isaac Sackey, among others, having been without significant bouts due to coronavirus.
Agbeko managed a single fight last year with a fifth-round stoppage win over Albert Commey in December and Wasiru also successfully defended his WBO Global belt on January 31.
Wasiru, the WBO sixth-rated super bantamweight, knocked out Benin’s John Amuzu last January and could not fight again due to the coronavirus.
Sackey on the other hand is rated 12th by the WBO at super bantamweight and hopes to move up in the ratings. It was, however, a bad year for him without a single bout and he must fight this year in order to sustain his rankings.
Meanwhile, ex-IBF lightweight titlist Richard Commey failed to move back to his New York base in time for a fight after coming back home on vacation after his defeat to Teofimo Lopez in December 2019.
With borders closed for travels, Commey’s ring return was delayed as he had to wait on the government to ease travelling restrictions to enable him to move back to the US.
After moving back in August, Commey landed his final bout with Top Rank against Dominican Republic’s Jackson Marinez on February 13.
Bukom Fist of Fury
The annual boxing league dubbed ‘Bukom Fist of Fury’ ushered in 2020 with a show for all aspects of the sport, juvenile, amateur and professional bouts on January 31.
It was on that bill that Wasiru defended his WBO Global belt but the programme failed to return after the coronavirus outbreak.
However, organisers are looking forward to its return this year following the return of boxing in the country, which will provide the opportunity for several boxers to be active.
The year under review marked low competitiveness among amateur and professional fighters but with a world title appearance and Plange finishing with a shot, it was indeed worthwhile.