There is every indication that Ghana boxing’s trajectory is upward and positive after the blockbuster bout between Bukom Banku (Brimah Kamoko) and Bastie “The Beast’ Samir on October 21 at the Bukom Boxing Arena in Ghana.
Conversations about this bout and it’s high levels of entertainment for fans and television audiences have lingered on social media, in street corners, bars offices, places of worship and schools. So at least we know that the regular promotions being put together in recent times since the construction of the Bukom Boxing Arena, by then President Mahama’s government (through SSNIT) and Polish partners ETC Polska, has sparked a revolution.
There is a bigger interest in the sport and boxers can now rely on the sport fully as their source of bread and the prospects of sports tourism for Ghana are looking brighter. The media have content to work around, sponsors have alternate platforms for mass visibility and product sale.
As Ring Announcer for this big bout, I saw all the action from ringside but also different perspectives. A bloodied right eye, exhausted muscles, a submerged ego and an inability to soldier on after 2 minutes in round 7 - that was what was left of Ghana's boxing show boy 'Bukom Banku' after he was given rare punishment by longtime challenger Bastie Samir.
But was this to be expected of the Make or Break Fight night at the Bukom Boxing Arena in Accra?
Perhaps, there were especially after the late exchanges in round one which left Banku temporarily dazed after walking into Bastie’s left hook. That was a big deviation from Banku’s clean jabs and stalking for the better part of the round. More followed with a stinging overhead right that Bastie landed on Banku to send him crushing onto the ropes in round three.
But they trickled in over the period of the very charged build-up. During the official news conference, which recorded a massive attendance in excess of 2000 people, there were countless open declarations of defects from Banku's camp to that his opponent.
What were the reasons? His attitude, his alleged offensive pronouncements, cases of indiscipline outside the ring and involvement in partisan politics in the build-up to Ghana’s Presidential elections last year.
The sum total of these reasons formed became the biggest cloud of doubt and naysaying regarding Bukom Banku's chances in his entire 17-year career. The massive defect of fans to his opponent's camp also deepened the wounds.
The Latin saying "vox populi vox dei" surely took effect in this bout.
The technical faults?
Banku's bane on the night was abandoning his defence. Dropping his guard opened him up for the dead overhead shots which eventually caused what is now the only blot in his otherwise clean run in the pugilistic sport. Bastie on the other hand, though defensively careless at certain points held up his guard when it mattered.
Banku had vowed to stop Bastie in Round 6
Obviously what triggered Bastie's defensive alertness is the left hook from Banku in round 4 which forced a swell and redness under his left eye.
On at least three occasions throughout the bout. Banku landed heavy combinations to punish Bastie's lack of alertness and defence. The latter learnt his lessons early and they went in his favour. "Protect yourself at all times" - the greatest of boxing commandments.
Televised live on Pay Tv network DSTV supersport and GoTv drew great interest across Ghana and the African continent. The almost 5000-seater arena was not necessarily full to capacity but had thousands gathered outside - due to their inability to meet the minimum GHC50 ($12) requirement at the gates. Of course, television viewership, though not yet quantified was massive considering the reactions on social media.
The build-up was great and stirred arguments within their immediate community and outside of it. It was so intense that people were ready to place bets with treasured assets.
Moments within the fight that provided electricity through the crowd included the 2 knockdowns Banku sustained and the sparks of individual brilliance.
R1 – Banku was more aggressive and stalked Bastie around the ring and being effective with his left. However, the last minute provided more electricity in the crowd as Bastie and Banku took turns to land some ferocious connecting hooks. At this point either boxer was vulnerable.
R2 - Banku came in with more aggression and taking the fight to Samir. Banku initiating the attack and making more use of his left and impressing with mid-tempo movement good calculated footwork. But Bastie Samir gave a few replies targeting and hitting the body and complimenting with hooks and jabs. At this point, Bastie had started holding his guard up.
R3 - The direction of the bout changed after a big unexpected hook from Bastie sent Banku falling onto the ropes. That big moment spurred on the dreadlocked boxer to press on and initiate attack against Banku. He would work on the body and follow up with overhead shots on at least four occasions – bringing great reminisce of Mike Tyson’s Pee-ka-boo style. Banku attempted to counterpunch but it drew, even more, punishment for him. The sting in Bastie’s punch had started taking effect exposing Banku’s vulnerability.
R4- Bukom Banku played the psychological card by raising his left hand to signal victory before Referee Fred Ghartey signalled a start. Banku would step forward and use his left to tease but almost always got a swift solid right jab in return. Bukom Banku got his moments throughout the round especially with the right jab but mostly initiated his attack with his guard dropped. That played to the advantage of Samir who had better punch pace.
R5 - A lot of fighting around the ring. Banku pinned Bastie to the ropes at a point but got a wild three-punch combination from the latter, to force a rapturous applause from the crowd. In terms of aggression, it seemed level.
R6 – Bukom Banku’s prediction of winning via a KO in round six failed as it was tougher than expected. Banku tried hard to jab more and follow up with his right but Batsie was swift and will strategically clinch to halt any rhythmic attack by the more experienced Banku.
R7 - Bukom Banku at this point was a stamina suspect. He may have started the round well with carefully thrown lefts. All this while Bastie was on the lookout to counter and the moment came after a minute of the round when Bastie replied a jab with two punch combinations.
A stinging rocket speed hok with Bastie left was followed with a barrage of punches. Bastie worked on his opponent's body and pinned him to the ropes to deliver a rare punishment of the then undefeated ex-WBO Africa Champion.
Bastie’s seamless punching was interrupted by Referee Ghartey after a cut above Banku’s led to profuse bleeding. Banku’s corner sneaked in to pour water on the boxer to help him cool of while his cut was being examined by DR S.A. Quaye and Dr Ken Aryeetey.
Referee Ghartey after noticing yelled at the corner man to stop. The fight resumed. But Bastie Samir resumed immediately and struck severally until Banku fell flat on his backside. He stood up on wobbly feet and approached the referee who administered the mandatory 8-count but Banku signalled at 7 he wanted to fight. Referee Ghartey agreed and asked him to step forward but at this stage, Banku was weak. The Referee waved an end to the fight. Banku’s fine run of victories over his 17-year career was finally truncated.
The ripple effect on Ghana boxing
The sport is definitely indebted to Banku for being an exceptional crowd puller. His charisma, and special brand of English, as well as his ability to walk the talk, made him a must-watch anytime he fought. Bastie may have won, but comes to no shade near his victim (Banku) in pulling the non-sport loving people to follow boxing.
Do we have a "magnetic" character like Banku? It' A big NO! The nation must pray for a Bukom Banku or two in the immediate future. The prospects are very positive. Pay TV giants DSTV Super Sport partnered Box Office Promotions to put together this showpiece.
There are strong indications of a partnership between Box Office Promotions and DSTV Super Sport, where one fight night will be put together each quarter throughout 2018. Ghana could re-establish itself as a hub of boxing on the continent considering its rich history.
Considering that SuperSport has provided reach to over 40 countries on the African continent can open Ghana up for massive sports tourism. Once people start travelling into Ghana for these big events, other sectors especially hospitality benefit a great deal.
Once big sponsors come on board, Ghanaian boxers can safely stage their fights in Ghana and become major world champions. The legendary Floyd Mayweather staged all his fights in the US, which has all the elements needed to make an industry out of boxing.
It’s worth stating that Referee Fred Ghartey is one of Ghana's most experienced. However many criticized his temporary stoppage of the bout in round 7. From the angle of immediate ringside Referee Ghartey stopped the bout, ushered Banku to the neutral corner and beckoned the Medical Doctor on duty, Dr S.A. Quaye to attend to him. So why did Referee Ghartey step in? This was his explanation when I contacted him
“Basically as a referee, my prime position is to protect the interest of the boxers under my care during a tournament.In the early part of the 7th round Bastie unleashed a barrage of blows which led to severe bleeding and knowing the medical history of Bukom Bank, I needed to check the source of the bleeding. That is why after he attempted fighting back I was comfortable to use my discretion to seek medical advice and attention for him and then to check the exact source of the bleeding. After seeking medical advice the doctors responded that the cut was a very bad cut and that I could allow the fight to continue. If there was any severe bleeding I stop the fight. As you may recall when Bukom was asked to box, he came in and was given another blow and went down and I had to stop and give the mandatory 8-count.After the eighth count, he couldn’t respond properly and that’s why I had to stop the fight.”
So all said and done Referee Fred Ghartey took discretionary action.
Is Bastie Samir Ghanaian?
Yes, he is. He hails from Tamale in the Northern Region of Ghana and is the elder brother of middleweight Issah Samir (14-0), also an Olympian. He comes from a boxing family as his father was also a boxer who was previously trained by Coach Ofori Asare.
As an amateur, he has fought in competitions in West Africa, Africa, at the AIBA World Championships and the Olympic Games. He started his career on a good note with most of his fights in Las Vegas Nevada almost all his wins coming by knockouts.
He had the opportunity to spar with the Legends Oscar de La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather Jnr for three training camps during the legend’s 50 fight career. The Samir brothers signed on with Oscar de La Hoya’s Golden Boy promotions less than two years ago but had to discontinue due to lack of opportunities.
The future surely looks good for Bastie. Banku has asked for a rematch on March 6 next year and while Samir is open to a rematch other bigger opportunities could beckon.