Charles Quartey (left) is one of the leading trainers
Charles Quartey (left) is one of the leading trainers

Bukom, home of boxing champions

“When live in are in Jamestown,” says Abdul Wahid Omar, “you know you have to be a hard guy.”


A poor neighbourhood and children with boundless energy but few positive ways to channel it. Then along comes boxing, cracking open a door to a less perilous future — even sporting glory, with enough hard work. It’s a tale as old as time, repeated from Havana to Manila to Philadelphia.

Nevertheless, few places live up to the narrative quite like Bukom, Jamestown. Part of a coastal district of the Ghanaian capital Accra, Bukom is a boxing mecca and finishing school for pugilists like 29-year-old Omar. A six-time national champion, he represented Ghana at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics and is captain of the national team in the lead up to this year’s Paris Games.

Omar follows a path trod by boxers including Azumah “The Professor” Nelson, a featherweight and super-featherweight world champion in the 1980s-90s, widely considered the best African boxer of all time, and DK Poison (real name, David Kotei), Ghana’s first world champion in the 1970s.

They, like he, honed their craft in Bukom, which has produced a remarkable eight world champions from its modest network of gyms.

“We like to fight,” says local boxing legend, trainer Charles Quartey. “The whole thing is in our genes.”

Ghana hosted the African Games in March, with a lively boxing program based out of Bukom. Ahead of the tournament, CNN visited to interview veterans of this school of hard knocks, along with rising talent.


Bukom is a neighbourhood where gyms spill out onto the streets; where squares become makeshift rings and ropes are surplus to requirement – an assembled crowd will do. Sun-bleached posters of past champions loom over low-rise housing, quietly observing their legacy in action.

It is a place that loves boxing: “It’s not just a sport,” says Kodzo Gavua, it’s “part of their heritage.”

Gavua, an associate professor at the University of Ghana, has studied boxing in Jamestown extensively as part of his anthropology research. “It’s one thing that promotes social cohesion and harmony,” he adds.

“On the surface, it appears that the people of Jamestown, because of boxing, they could be violent, but our experience is that it’s one of the most peaceful places you can be in Ghana — particularly in Accra.”

But that doesn’t mean everything is easy for youngsters in the coastal community. “Their life is a challenging one. Some of them can’t pay for their education,” says Quartey, a former amateur fighter who now runs a prominent gym.

“I was so lucky,” he adds. Through boxing Quartey joined the military. He travelled to the US, and returned home to find his peers still working the same jobs they’d had when he left. Quartey turned his attention to the next generation, and opened a gym, to bring children off the streets and helps them inside and outside of the ring.

“We take care of them,” he says. “We clothe them, we feed them, we send them to school. We’re trying to do our best so that these boys will not grow up wasted in the community.”

“Home of champions”

Bukom’s gyms are highly competitive, internally and with each other. Some of the major clubs, like the Black Panthers Gym and the Wisdom Gym (the de-facto national training gym), compete in the Ghana Professional Boxing League, a team event that regularly takes place out of the Bukom Boxing Arena. The arena, which opened is 2016, is the first purpose-built venue of its kind in Ghana.

African Games medallist, Samuel Takyi is one of the Ghana’s promising boxers

It has become a focal point for the community and a draw for the nation’s rising boxers ­­– a place to be seen at events like the boxing league, which airs and streams on MAX TV Ghana.

“I see it like a university for boxing. If you are a good boxer and you’re from some other region (of Ghana), you need to come to Jamestown,” says Ofori Asare, coach of the national team, dubbed “The Black Bombers.”

The Black Bombers are the most successful of all Ghana’s Olympic teams, responsible for four of the country’s total of five medals since it began competing in 1952.  The squad was out in force in March at the Africa Games, a major competition and an important stop on the road to the Olympics.

The program was hosted by the Bukom Boxing Arena, with finals taking place on March 22.

Among those triumphant was featherweight Samuel Takyi, a bronze medallist at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics — the nation’s first Olympic medal since 1992.


Born and raised in Bukom, Takyi started boxing as a nine-year-old, and now aged 23, he trains at the Wisdom Boxing Gym. “This is the home of champions,” he says of Bukom, naming past greats who went on to establish their own gyms in the neighbourhood. “The boxing grows itself here.”

Two-time world champion Joseph Agbeko is one such name. Agbeko says he’s frequently asked for the secret to his success. “You always have to be ready” is his answer, recalling he only received three weeks’ notice ahead of his first world title fight in 2007. Agbeko would go on to lose the title in 2009 before regaining it the following year – evidence of his and Bukom’s fighting spirit.

Olympic dreams

That fighting spirit will be required for Ghana’s Olympic aspirants. No Ghanaian boxers have yet qualified through the convoluted selection process for the Paris Games, which involves continental qualifiers, world qualifiers and a quota system stacked against African fighters this year. Their final shot will come in May at a second world qualifying tournament in Bangkok, Thailand.

But there is still hope, especially for boxers like Joseph Commey, who won gold at the Africa Games in March and a silver at the 2022 Commonwealth Games (it might have been gold, had he not had to withdraw from the final on medical grounds


The latest generation of a family of Bukom boxers, Commey shares his moniker “The Jaguar” with his grandfather, a champion in the 1960s. Commey junior is training three times a day, with a familiar roadmap before him: “I want to go to the Olympic Games … then I take a medal, before I (turn) professional.”

Look around him and you’d think the odds might be stacked against Commey. But he’s made it in Bukom – and if you can make it in Bukom, history says he can make it anywhere.

“I think this year, I’ll be the greatest boxer in the world,” he adds. “I promise.”

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