Boxing | Opinion

Does voodoo have a place in boxing? The Dogboe case

Former WBO Super Bantamweight champion Isaac Dogboe

A recent exclusive interview granted the Joy Sports Link drew Isaac Dogboe’s father and first trainer Paul, a barrage of criticism for blaming his son’s title loss on juju or voodoo.

There are many sections of the boxing fraternity who have labelled the move as unprofessional as well considering the young boxer’s pedigree.

Only two days ago Isaac Dogboe had to put up a video post on his official Instagram handle to debunk the juju rumours and affirm his faith as a Christian.

According to the former champion, the interview his father granted on the April 25 edition of the Joy Sports link has been taken out of context by other media houses.  

https://www.instagram.com/tv/B_xKb8cAgmw/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

During the said interview, Paul Dogboe revealed that the leader of his church (Apostle Revelations Society – ARS ), Prophet Kwesi Wogbloexo Wovenu II told him that his recent association with voodoo caused his son’s defeats to Navarette.

Prophet Kwase Wogbloexo Wovenu II – Leader of the ARS Church

Paul Dogboe, based on his accounts on the programme hardly consulted juju or voodoo with the aim of helping his son win, however it happened unconsciously, due to his contributions to the revival of royal traditions in his family – Royal Badu clan of Keta, Anyako in Ghana’s Volta Region.

The background

While working on the documentary ‘Return of the Royal Storm’ ahead of Isaac Dogboe’s second bout against Emmanuel Navarette, I found out that Paul Dogboe was a descendant of the Royal Badu Clan in Keta-Anyako and an heir to the throne.

Based on requests from the family he invested money in renovating the royal family’s palace and stool house, which was in a bad state.  

In fact, as part of Isaac’s physical conditioning for the second bout against Navarette, he had to break a large portion of one of the old structures at the stool house.  

Dogboe, the writer Nathaniel Attoh and his uncle Mitch Woolams Awoonor, a boxing promoter whose home he used as his last training camp in Keta in the Volta Region of Ghana

Part of the aesthetic design of the outer walls of the stool house was a sculpture of the three brothers in their royal lineage Togui Tsali, Togbui Tsala and Togbui Dala. These three brothers who were also royals occupy a significant place in the town’s folklore and traditions.

The Facts (Q&A on the Joy Sports Link)

Paul Dogboe: Anytime we fight we come to the prophet he puts Isaac in confinement and we go and fight and win all the time. At the time I did not know my family house in Anyako and when we won the world title we took the world title, we took the belt to our royal house. The Ewes call it Afedome – (where our kingship is).

When I went to Anyako, and I saw the Badu royal palace that had been neglected for 16 to 18 years when the last King Togbui Badu III was called by God the place was neglect for 16. So when I realised that I went back to Ghana and renovated the whole palace, sorted the place out and built more structures there. We had about four thrones there. But I didn’t know then that the stool house was governed by voodoo and all these things that I don’t worship.”

“So, as we went to cleanse the stool, I am a Christian, but then they made me understand that we had to revive these things that were lying there for 16 years. All this voodoo business and we had to do all that.

Nathaniel Attoh: You got yourself into voodoo which we know as juju is that it?

Paul Dogboe: No I did not get myself into voodoo. I was renovating our royal house. The stool house. I took the belt there.

Nathaniel Attoh: Why did you send the WBO title belt there?

Paul Dogboe: You have a royal house and they said the stool protects the family.

Nathaniel Attoh:  So you sent the belt to your hometown and to the stool house to show to whom?

Paul Dogboe: I sent it there to show to the people who are there manning the place, so when I got there and noticed how it was run down, I started to renovate the place and then they asked to revive all the gods that were governing the throne. I am a Christian. I started doing it. I had bought a lot of goats and all these things. I didn’t know what I was doing. So I had done all that and the prophet called me and said “Paul! cousin! Do you know you have messed up with all you have done? The God we worship is a jealous God. He cannot get close to those things you have gone to revive because of your stool house. You need cleansing!”

Nathaniel Attoh: And this was before you fought Navarette for the first time?

Paul Dogboe

Paul Dogboe: Yes but then I was still doing it.  When the Prophet told me I said Ok but I was still doing it

Nathaniel Attoh: And when you say ‘doing it’ you mean buying what you need to buy for the people to do what had to do right?

Paul Dogboe: Yes because it was all about the stool house. Remember we were building the stool house. When you’re repairing these things you have to do certain rituals and stuff and we had done all that. So the Prophet told me that things will not be well. So I told my son that the juju people say we will knock Navarette out in round two and the prophet says this cannot be.

Nathaniel Attoh: So the Prophet told you will lose that fight. So you knew you were going to lose to Navarette before you left Ghana?

Paul Dogboe: Yeah but I did not believe when he even said that. You were with us when we were training right? Did you believe Isaac would have lost that fight? I am asking you

Nathaniel Attoh: Well Isaac trained hard. I was in camp and I saw him.

Paul Dogboe: So when the prophet was telling me that I had doubts. I don’t know what came over me. People were telling me I was doing my family thing and that it was an ancestral thing so just go ahead and just repair the palace. But then I was just consumed in it.

Nathaniel Attoh: So you went in and fight first and you lost. Did you learn your lesson? Did you stop?

Paul Dogboe: I didn’t. Those people in my family house said I had done something wrong so they had to correct it. At that time the renovation of the place wasn’t finished. I had reached the lintel level. So I was continuing. So as I was continuing the place, they came and said this time round four, were going to knock him out and then we lost again. The prophet stopped talking to me for some time and I had to go back and apologise to him and my son came back and he had to cleanse my son and cleanse me.  

The Christianity of the Dogboe’s

Paul and his son have on numerous occasions declared they are Christian and only believed in God and nothing else as they pursue their dreams in the sport.

In fact, the ARS Church has been very present and prominent in Isaac’s endeavours. Ahead of every major bout staged in Ghana, members of the church chant the official church anthem (Agoo Ne anyigba).

The song suggests that the earth opens and ears listen and to make way for the sound of the voice of God to uproot all evil. So the anthem echoes the belief in God and his power.

Paul Dogboe (wearing a Wogblexo customized T-shirt) with his son Isaac Dogboe

This anthem has been part of all of Isaac’s ringside processions in bouts staged in his homeland Ghana.

Fast forward, the family in Ghana and abroad are protecting themselves against the COVID 19 with a herb-based ‘cure’ prepared by Prophet Wogblexo through a revelation.

During the same interview, Paul and his son (who joined on phone from his US base) spoke about the potency of the medicine which is claimed by the ARS Church to be directly from God, since the revelation about the virus and its effect on the globe from the prophet last year. Their family consumes this regularly in addition to safety protocols to protect themselves from COVID-19.  

Does Vodoo have a place in boxing?

Yes, it does according to the deeds and accounts given by the boxers themselves. Yes, some boxers practice voodoo.

Mexico is probably one of the world’s most successful nations on earth in terms of achievements in boxing or the number of champion’s produced.

There are many tales of bizarre happenings in boxing some of which are well documented.

In the legendary Azumah Nelson’s autobiography, The Professor The Story of Azumah Nelson, Authored by Australian Journalist Ashley Morrison, we learn of ‘brujeria’ the Mexican equivalent of voodoo. Persons who practice it are seen as evil because they cast spells on others.

In other parts of America they are seen more as healers and are referred to as Curanderos – a more dignified and positive version of brujeria

In Azumah’s bout against Gabriel Ruelas for instance, he talks about how some spirits from Ruelas’s camp attacked him.

20 Feb 1993: Azumah Nelson, left, and Gabriel Ruelas in action during a bout. Mandatory Credit: Holly Stein /Allsport

The legend recollected in the chapter, Brujeria that ‘something’ was thrown at him during the break between one of the rounds, and being a very spiritual person he saw it and turned his head hoping to swerve but it hit the back of his head, and he bled as a result.  

The same book tells us about the epic bout between Julio Caesar Chavez and Edwin ‘El Chapo’ Rosario which led to the wearing of the red headband by the former and subsequently many other Mexican boxers.

According to the account in Azumah’s autobiography, Jose ‘Buffalo’ Martin, who was Azumah’s trainer and Chavez’s assistant trainer had picked up information that Edwin Rosario’s mother had practised Brujeria back in their native Puerto Rico and were set to use it against him (Chavez) in the bout.

Chavez’s picture had been stuck on a bucket of ice with the aim of giving him a head cold so he would lose focus. Chavez was advised to consult a brujo (male who practices Brujeria) which he did because he didn’t want to take chances.

Julio Caesar Chavez wearing the famed red headband.

Though embarrassed about it Chavez wore a red headband as a counter measure and so did all his corner men. Eventually, he won the bout and kept faith with the red headband since. This red band has been replicated by some Mexican boxers over the years.

Some Examples

In my years of working as a journalist with some of Ghana’s boxing world champions, and prominent boxers, I have discovered very interesting things about their stance on juju.

A trainer of a Ghanaian former world champion mentioned to me back in 2005, that a Mallam/juju man in Accra gave them a ‘special’ cream which had powers to use in one of their bouts in the US.

According to him, they accepted the cream and had planned to use it. Unfortunately for them, the State Athletic Commission Official assigned to them raised eyebrows upon seeing the cream.

He did not allow them, saw the cream because he had an ill feeling about it. The regulations normally allow plain petroleum jelly for the greasing of the boxers’ face and the gloves.   

Former WBO Africa light heavyweight champion Bukom Banku (Brimah Kamoko) lost his first bout to 2008 Olympian, Bastie Samir in a highly publicized and patronized bout.

After the loss, the usually satirical Bukom Banku said in interviews that Bastie appeared bigger than his actual physical size as they both stepped into the ring for the start of the bout.

Was that a case of juju, or pure hallucination? This is the same Bukom Banku, who years earlier, had concluded that there was no juju in boxing and that training was the way to go.

Indeed after signing the contract for the botched rematch, Banku placed a phone call to me saying he needed to go consult on why he lost to Bastie because even after several months, he remained jinxed about it.

Bukom Banku suffered his first career defeat against Bastie in October 2018

A former world champion (name withheld) told me in a private conversation over a decade ago that he hardly believes juju works outside the shores of Ghana. “If it did, I would use it,” he said.

So from these accounts, it is clear that some boxers use bad spirits and are involved in metaphysical practices that they believe can help them in the ring.

In the case of Paul Dogboe, he suffered the consequences of extending goodwill to his family to rekindle a royal tradition which was fizzling away with time.

As Christian, his faith was tested from his own accounts and he unconsciously allowed his family’s voodoo practices rub off his boxing endeavour and also dictate some of his actions.