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24 SEPTEMBER 2014

 

Each Nation’s Best: Ghana


Clottey in action against Margarito
Clottey in action against Margarito

By Derek Bonnett: The Republic of Ghana is located in western portion of the African continent just a few degrees north of the equator. Since the Greenwich Meridian also passes through Ghana it is commonly said that Ghana is closer to the center of the world than any other nation.

Ghana is rich in natural resources such as gold, diamond, cocoa, and timber, but our primary concern is Ghana’s development of world championship caliber fighters.

Coincidentally, the name “Ghana” translates to “Warrior King”. How fitting when such warrior kings as the great Azumah Nelson and Ike Quartey represented their nation nobly winning world championships and competing with the best in the sport of boxing for years. Nelson held both the featherweight and super featherweight titles while defeating a number of Hall of Fame caliber opponents and turning back the challenges of much younger opposition regularly. Quartey bravely held the world welterweight championship as a contemporary of Felix Trinidad, Shane Mosley, and Oscar De La Hoya.

Ghana may not be at the center of the boxing world, but it continues to produce a number of worthy world-class fighters that have yet to reach the heights of Quartey or the all-time great Nelson. The following are four of the best of Ghana’s current crop of world-class fighters.

4.) Kofi Jantuah’s chances of making boxing history may be getting slimmer and slimmer as the huge punching middleweight will be turning 34 in June. He’s produced two noble efforts against Kassim Ouma and Arthur Abraham for the junior middleweight and middleweight world titles respectively, but is only ranked 28 by the WBC. Nevertheless, Jantuah still holds a 31-3-1 (20) record.

Jantuah’s world title shots were earned largely off of the strength of his two biggest victories to date. Back in 1999, he stopped a then undefeated Daniel Santos in five rounds. Jantuah then crushed fellow puncher Marco Antonio Rubio in a single round back in 2004. Both men still hold contender status in the 154 and 160 pound divisions, but the weight of those victories is wearing thin.

Jantuah has yet to fight in 2008, but should still be viewed as a viable opponent for any middleweight contender or prospect. However, the window is rapidly closing on the native of Bukom, Ghana.

3.) Ray Narh calls himself “Emperor”, but he has yet to earn that moniker as a figure in the junior welterweight division. The Accra, Ghana native suffered a first round knockout defeat to Almazbek Raiymkulov, more commonly known as ’Kid Diamond’, back in his 11th pro bout as a lightweight. Narh recently pulled out as a last minute replacement to fight Stevie Johnston in a bout that surely would have shown us a lot more of what the 29 year old fighter has to offer.

Since his lone defeat, Narh has won 12 bouts in a row. The biggest wins on Narh’s 22-1 (19) record have been against the once formidable Steve Quinonez (W8) and Luis Bolano (KO1).

Narh also has yet to fight in 2008, but does not hold the name recognition that Jantuah may be hanging on with. A stern step up in class is necessary for the 29 year old fighter or his career will be over before he ever gets a chance to break into the rankings.

2.) Joseph “King Kong” Agbeko just might be the best fighter actively fighting out of Ghana, but he lacks the exposure of the No.1 selection. The 28 old Agbeko is 25-1 (22) and currently holds the IBF bantamweight title. His lone defeat occurred in 2004 when he dropped a controversial majority decision to a pre-championship version of Wladimir Sidorenko in hostile territory.

After taking 2005 and 2006 off, Agbeko returned in 2007 with two victories over boxing nonentities before he tried for the IBF bantamweight championship,broadcast on Showtime. His opponent was recently crowned and once beaten Luis Alberto Perez, who also previously held the 115 pound title for several years. The showcase of Perez turned out to be a nightmare as the unknown Agbeko soundly battered and broke him down before the doctor intervened to stop the fight before the seventh round.

Agbeko has yet to arrange the first defense of his championship, but a unification bout with Sidorenko, should he get past Anselmo Moreno, is a natural since the two competed so closely in their initial bout.

1.) Joshua “The Hitter” Clottey is the No.1 ranked welterweight in the eyes of the IBF. His 34-2 (20) dossier may not be deserving of such status, but he has consistently delivered workman-like performances against steady opposition. Clottey is best known for his “good start” against Antonio Margarito in a failed effort for the WBO welterweight title. Margarito now owns the IBF welterweight crown.

Since that 2006 defeat, Clottey has put together several solid efforts and posted commendable wins over Diego Corrales (W10), Shamone Alvarez (W10), and Jose Luis Cruz (KO5). The Corrales win shocked many as Clottey thoroughly dominated the former two-division champion and walked through his much feared punching power. His handling of the promising Alvarez furthered his standing in the division.

While nothing is currently inked, Clottey is very much in the mix in the 147-pound weight class. The biggest drawback for Clottey is the fact that he competes in boxing’s most prominent division talent-wise and is only himself a durable workman in the sport. Talks of a proposed bout with Andre Berto still linger boxing forums and his number one ranking should see him in a title bout before the year’s end.

These four men haven’t done much to remind us of the aforementioned Nelson and Quartey, but two of the four could be wearing belts before long. I personally have high hopes for Agbeko. Keep a look out for these top Ghanaian fighters and hope we might get a surprise out of one or two of them.

May 14, 2008


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