Sport globally is seen as a unifying element but sometimes this fact is challenged heavily by isolated incidents, especially after two-time world champion Joseph King Kong Agbeko’s recent comments about suffering ‘discrimination’ in his home country Ghana gives cause for worry.
Agbeko in a recent interview with Joy Sports Muftawu Nabila Abdulai on the Prime Take show on Joy Prime made some startling revelations.
First was that he felt unappreciated considering the fact that he is one of few sportsmen to have risen to the highest heights of achievements – world championship. “I will be mentioned amongst the top three world champions after Azumah Nelson and Nana Yaw Konadu because I am a two-time world champion. I won the IBO but it’s not valued as much” he told Joy Sports Muftawu Nabila on Prime Take.
Having followed Agbeko’s career for years I feel this is a very unfortunate turn of events considering the arduous journey he has travelled and the personal investment made in his craft. The other comment about people within the boxing community in Ghana not liking him because of his tribe was most unfortunate.
While Agbeko did not exactly give details of specific incidents that have led to this conclusion by him it must be condemned in no uncertain terms. The legend of the sport represented Ghana as a nation brought the glory not only to the people of his region. It’s also instructive to note that he pointed out his formative years all of which were spent in the Ga traditional area specifically the Gbese area.
Ghana’s boxing origins and its history can be traced fully to the Ga traditional areas and settlements on the southern coast of the West African nation. However, out of 10 boxers who won world titles, three are not Gas or Gadangmes. Maverlous Nana Yaw Konadu is from the Bono Region, while Joseph Agbeko and former WBO super bantamweight champion Isaac Dogboe are from the Volta Region. David Kotei D.K. Poison former WBC super featherweight champion, Azumah Nelson who previously held the WBC featherweight and super featherweight belts, Ike Quartey the former WBA Welterweight champion, the late Alfred Kotey who won the WBO bantamweight title, former IBF welterweight champion Joshua Clottey, Richard Commey the former IBF lightweight champion and Emmanuel Tagoe the former IBO lightweight champion, are all of Ga extraction.
Agbeko’s pedigree in Ghana’s history
Coincidentally it was in the same month of September in the same state of California, that the legendary D.K. Poison (David Kotei) won Ghana’s first world title in 1975. This also represented the very first major world title in any sport internationally for Ghana. So in September 2007, King Kong, was 13th on the IBF’s bantamweight rankings and had been put up to challenge the champion Luis Alberto Perez. He delivered a class act and in the 11th round the champion, Perez could not continue the bout. Agbeko had become a new world champion for Ghana and had also ended a nine-year world title drought – the last time being Nana Yaw Konadu’s WBA Bantamweight title bout against Abraham Torres in February 1998. It so happened that after defending the title to William Gonzalez and Vic Darchinyan, he lost to Yohnny Perez in Las Vegas in 2009. Agbeko quickly recovered reorganized himself and reclaimed the title a year later to assume the status of a two-time world champion.
It is also instructive to note that Agbeko’s world title-winning feat against Perez was achieved on the back on a three-week notice. This is a phenomenon that does occur in boxing however, it’s the ability of the boxer to rise to the occasion that counts. In this case Agbeko did justice to the moment.
Grand Medal Honour – 2008
There are four orders of national honours in Ghana, the Order of the Star, Order of the Volta, Medal for Gallantry and the Grand Medal. In June 2008, then-President J.A. Kufuor honoured 244 Ghanaians with a varied number of these awards for various achievements and selfless service to the nation.
Joseph Agbeko was one of those who received the Grand Medal of Ghana on the day for ending a world title drought in September 2007. The Grand Medal that is awarded has the national Coat of Arms of Ghana and the symbol of an elephant. These symbols have been used since the institution of the award in 1960.
Token Salon car gift from government
As a way for saying a symbolic thank you to Agbeko for the honour done the nation, President Kufuor’s government also announced a gift of a VW Polo saloon car to him for winning the title. This was presented to him some months later.
Why his name is yet to be inscribed on the inner walls at Bukom Arena
The Bukom Boxing Arena of the Trust Sports Emporium in Accra is now the home of the sport in Ghana. I happened to have chaired the publicity committee for the grand opening of the edifice by the then President John Dramani Mahama.
One of the high points of the commissioning of the edifice was the honoring of all world champions, Agbeko included. On the night, I also served as MC and Ring Announcer for the bouts and couldn’t stop admiring the beautiful moments with thousands of a live audience and millions joining via television broadcast to celebrate the exploits of these past champions – Agbeko included. . President Mahama also presented citations of honour and undisclosed cash amounts to each of the former champions. Added to this, the names of some boxing greats have been permanently inscribed at the topmost part of the inner walls above the stands of the arena. Roy Ankrah, Floyd Klutei Robertson, Azumah Nelson, David Kotei (D.K. Poison), Ike Quartey, Alfred Kotey and Nana Yaw Konadu are the names one can find on the inner walls of the arena.
As at the commissioning of the edifice in 2016, Agbeko and Clottey were still active. The management of the Trust Sports Emporium had started the process of inducting the two former IBF champions.
I spell out these instances to help distract the former world champion from behaviours. What we do realize with time is that sections of society may put up such unwarranted behaviour. And in some countries, there are consequences for the. The recent example of the French FA boss Noel Le Graet, who made some disrespectful remarks towards Zinedine Zidane in relation to the latter’s link with the French national team job in the future. Le Graet was reported to have said he won’t pick up the phone if Zidane called to discuss coaching the national team. The France ‘98 World Cup winner got support from the likes of Kylian Mbappe which eventually got Graet to resign due to the matter and some other scandals.
Clearly in Ghana, the reverence given to legends needs a great amount of improvement. In saying this, I am also asking of exemplary behavior from the legends since the younger generation and society in general place them as a standard for achievements. To a large extent, positive exemplary behavior insulates sporting legends from acts of disrespect. Agbeko has conducted himself well in public since turning professional which is commendable.
Absence of portrait in the corridor of Bukom Arena Conference Hall
During the same interview, Agbeko also talked bitterly about the absence of his portrait from the corridors of the Mudor Conference Hall of the Bukom Arena (Trust Sports Emporium) which has a collection of all boxing greats from and outside of Ghana. It turns out it was a blunder by the pioneering management. The current management led by Ms Shirley Acquah-Harrison is working on rectifying that.
In recent days, the pronouncements by Agbeko as well as the banter between former Black Stars Captain Stephen Appiah and GFA Executive Council Member Nana Oduro Sarfo brings to the fore some realities. That in Ghana, there is no standard scheme or policy to honour sportsmen and women based on the weight of their achievements. What has been done over the years is discretionary gestures on the part of successive governments.
What compounds this is the absence of a notable Sports Museum or a sports section at the Ghana National Museum. It is hoped that these happenings will wake us up as a collective to rectify this to further encourage sportsmen and women to place a big premium on what they sacrifice for the nation.
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