Our boxers got to be serious!
For more than four years now, Ghana’s boxers have flung away golden opportunities to be world champions – some crashing in the most irritating manner.
It is now becoming a mystery to many Ghanaians how they even got to fight for the crown in the first place. Could it be that they have got managers who possess the ‘golden touch’ and could make things happen any time?
On Saturday night, another Ghanaian – Jude Micah, was tipped to correct the recent pile of wrongs by sealing the mouths of the skeptics in a showdown with WBO bantamweight champion John Casimero.
Sadly, 30-year-old Casimero rather turned the heat on Micah with a 3rd round TKO at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Connecticut to retain his WBO bantamweight belt.
The experts say Micah was not ready and should not have accepted the fight.
With the win, Casimero improved to a 30-4 record with 21 knockouts. It was Micah’s first loss of his career after 25 bouts, ending hopes of the nation to get a world champion before 2021.
Two years ago, two Ghanaian boxers were also handed brilliant opportunities to rule the world in the pugilistic sport. They blew them off with careless abandon!
Indeed, many Ghanaians were thrilled beyond measure on hearing that Habib Ahmed and Maxwell Awuku had been handed very rare chances of contesting for the world title.
For them, the nation could add one or two titles to the only one we had then – Emmanuel Tagoe’s IBF lightweight coronet. Wrong! The two pugilists were crushed in the most humiliating fashion, offering only a powder-puffed challenge to the Mexican champions.
First, it was Ahmed Ahmed (now 25-1-1, 17 KO), who set the ball rolling on February 4 with a lame performance against Gilberto Ramirez in a World Boxing Organization (WBO) super middleweight championship, as the Mexican thumped the Ghanaian in the one-sided contest that lasted six rounds.
The southpaw Ramirez, thus, improved to 37-0 with 25 KOs as he defended his 76- kilogramme (168 pound) title for the third time since winning it from Arthur Abraham in 2016.
Then, on the night of February 11, Awuku (44-4-1, 30 KOs), was stopped just in the third round by Mexico’s Miguel Berchelt (33-1, 29 KOs) in Cancun, Mexico, in the World Boxing Council (WBC) super featherweight title fight. The Ghanaian was a bad patch on the night – and was beaten to pulp.
Perhaps, losing to the Mexican world champions was not really the big deal here – but the humiliatingly lethargic manner they succumbed to the battering. Excuses that the Ghanaians did not have enough preparations ahead of the fight can only be plausible.
Fact is that our men did not come to the party at all. They only came to dance through the drills. They staggered into the ring and lamely offered themselves as sacrificial lambs. They had nothing to show. The legendary Ghanaian firepower, doggedness, aggressiveness and doughty character were all sorely missing.
It was all-too unfortunate because they missed a huge opportunity to advertise themselves to the world proper. If they had lost gallantly, their names would have been etched on the minds all. The world would have been talking about them by now.
One could easily point to Ghana boxing legend Azumah Nelson, in this respect.
In 1982, no one outside of Africa knew anything about Nelson, who had a paltry record of 13 bouts and was brought in as a last-second replacement for top contender Mario Miranda. Aside from holding the Commonwealth featherweight title, he possessed no qualifications for a shot at the world championship whatsoever, much less a bout with the man regarded as one of the finest performers in the sport.
As a result, only 5,500 showed up at Madison Square Garden in New York in the night of July 21, 1982. But those who did were treated to a truly thrilling battle.
In contrast to Nelson, Sanchez, at only 23 years of age, entered the ring that night with the mantle of greatness already upon his shoulders. Since turning pro in 1975, his career had moved fast, almost as fast as the sports cars he loved to drive.
He fought frequently, at least six bouts per year, and since battering Danny Lopez to win the featherweight crown, he had notched nine title defenses in just two years, his exciting knockout win over Wilfredo Gomez cementing his status as, pound-for-pound, one of the very best.
Indeed, Sanchez was big! He was dreadful! But Azumah cared less about the might of his opponent and was utterly aggressive all night when he was offered the opportunity to fight him – from round one till the referee halted the fight in the 15th – with the challenger showing Sanchez no respect.
And as the challenger took the 13th round on the strength of his brawling attack, his right hands forcing Sanchez to retreat, it began to dawn on incredulous reporters and ringsiders that they were witnessing not only a war for the ages but possibly too, a momentous upset.
There are a number of reasons why this classic fight has been largely overlooked in the years since. First of all, Sanchez vs Nelson had the misfortune of taking place during a banner year for monumentally exciting clashes. A thrilling contest which would have easily been Fight of the Year at other points in time found itself in fourth place behind Aaron Pryor vs. Alexis Arguello, Bobby Chacon vs. Rafael Limon IV and Wilfredo Gomez vs. Lupe Pintor, all magnificent wars.
The truth remains that a young Azumah Nelson gave an electrifying performance that night – an astonishing exhibition of heart and determination that could only have been withstood and overcome by a boxer of equal courage and even greater talent.
Predictably, Azumah’s name was all over the place. He was hailed in defeat and it may have come as no surprise at all when the Ghanaian was presented with the chance to fight for the world featherweight crown after the unfortunate death of Sanchez in a motor accident on August 13, 1982.
So, December 8, 1984 came and Azumah knocked out Wilfredo Gomez in the 11th round in San Juan, Puerto Rico, to win the nation’s second world title after D.K Poison’s exploit on September 20, 1975.
This was the way our boxers (Ahmed, Awuku and Micah) should have gone. Go there and represent the nation positively. Fight, fight and fight – and carve a niche for themselves even in defeat.
PlainTalk with JOHN VIGAH