FEATURE: Let’s get to the good old days

BY: Bernard Neequaye

From entering into the ring in a coffin to wearing a Black Stars jersey with a football, Braimah Kamoko (alias Bukom Banku) will be remembered for his fanciful and jaw-dropping entries into the ring over the years.

Arguably the most popular boxer in the country, Bukom Banku brought something extraordinary into the sport with his pre-fight and post-fight comments.

I remember watching my first boxing bout in 2011 because of the euphoria and competitiveness that surrounded Bukom Banku’s bout with Uruguay’s Jorge Rodriguez Olivera at the Accra International Conference Centre.

It was a fight between then undefeated Bukom Banku and Olivera for the interim WBO Africa light heavyweight title in 2011.

Bukom Banku at the time was hot and one of the most feared boxers in the country. In four rounds, the tough-talking boxer triumphed over Olivera, having promised to avenge Ghana’s painful defeat to Uruguay at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.

His entry into boxing rings has remained a spectacle over the years. The Bukom-born fighter has one of the best ring walks in the history of the sport in Ghana.

I remember during his maiden pro-career defeat to Bastie ‘The Beast’ Samir in 2017, Bukom Banku entered the ring with his favourite dish banku flying around.

His opponent Samir made his entry in an outfit made fabric designed with a lion’s skin to depict how dangerous he would be in the ring.

These were the things that excited boxing fans to throng events. We continue to witness a decline in some of these marketing strategies that made boxing shows memorable.

Competitive bouts

Aside comments and ring walks being tools for marketing shows, competitiveness of the bout plays a role in determining rants by boxers.

Boxers of today are usually not tested with the right opponents in the name of record building. How can a boxer who knows he has been paid to lose to his opponent hype a fight? That is impossible.

Before Bukom Banku, there was a James ‘Bukom Fire’ Armah who entered the ring carrying a pot of fire. Armah was a prospect who many thought would win a world title but that never happened.

Those were the days when prospects were willing to take on each other without fear or interference from managers and that brought the best out of them.

This is where we are now and we don’t get to see marketed shows that bring the best ring walks out of boxers on fight nights.

I was, however, not surprised to see George ‘Red Tiger’ Ashie and Robert ‘Stopper’ Quaye give Ghanaians one of the best shows to have taken place at the Bukom Boxing Arena since its inauguration in 2016.

Quaye’s ring walk was a beauty to watch from the ringside as he rode on the back of a horse with cheers from R Kelly’s ‘The World’s Greatest Song’.

Ashie opted for a simple entry. The former WBO Africa lightweight champion entered the arena being held shoulder high by his cornermen, with Bob Marley’s ‘Who the Cap Fits’ song being played in the background.

The outing was great and everyone in the arena was excited to witness a fight of that calibre. It showed how good pairings can bring memories of the good old days.

Sold-out shows

The only way to get sold-out shows is to bring the best boxers in the division to fight because announcing a good pairing alone is a marketing strategy.

It is the only antidote to force rivalries between boxers and communities, especially when there are bragging rights at stake.

Our boxers must make a conscious effort to take up credible opponents to build charisma within them because it is one virtue needed by a boxer to excel.

We all saw how Emmanuel ‘Gameboy’ Tagoe came into the picture with his unique ring entries. Tagoe usually entered rings in a palanquin dressed like a royal, and that really helped his brand.

Talent is very important but that alone is not enough to make a boxer notable. Fighters need other marketing strategies to stand out.