Nelson Azumah: Ghana boxing enjoys resurgence in interest

Sheriff Quaye (R) fights with Benjamin Lamptey during the inauguration of the Trust Sports Emporium Boxing Arena in Bukom, Accra, on 15 November 2016. Quaye won the fight to claim the national lightweight title. Jordi Perdig/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

After a long period of disinterest, boxing in Ghana is enjoying something of a resurgence, according to boxing great Azumah Nelson, and he credits the Trust Sports Emporium, the purpose-built boxing facility in Bukom, for that.

The next few months could be critical for Ghana boxing, thanks to the central Accra stadium's continued availability since its inauguration in late 2016.

World title fights overseas, which could result in bouts at home, and exciting local promotions will see a decidedly a busy period for local boxing fans to enjoy.

At the end of April, Isaac Doegbe will attempt to bring a world title bout to Ghana when he faces Jesse Magdaleno in Philadelphia for the World Boxing Organisation's junior featherweight title. Then, Richard Commey has a shot at Robert Easter's IBF title in the coming months.

On the local scene, promoters are busy putting together a June bout for the re-match between local favourites Braimah Kamoko and Bastir Samir.

"That facility has changed a lot of things," Nelson, a multiple WBC featherweight and super featherweight title holder in his prime, tells KweséESPN.

"Promoters can put together big bouts suitable for television and grow the audience at the same time. It's been good."

Nelson is hoping the rise in boxing interest locally will result in a bigger presence on the international stage. Nelson himself was that presence for a decade, with his professional titles and Commonwealth Games gold.

"Ghana boxing just died all of a sudden and that's why we decided to come in and help bring boxing up, and gradually people are hearing about someone going to fight for World title," he adds.

"Richard Commey is going to fight for world title, Isaac Dogboe is going to fight for world title soon. You can see that the sport is rising again."

Nelson, a World and International Boxing Hall of Famer, has become the standard by which Ghanaian boxers are measured, and as Doegbe prepares for his bout against Magdaleno, he is fully aware of what it will mean for the sport.

Doegbe tells KweséESPN: "The WBO title is a big deal, it is prestigious and could open up the path for many Ghanaian boxers, because it has been a while since an opportunity like this came along.

"As a Ghanaian boxer I have heard so much about the legend of Azumah Nelson. I hope I can begin to take Ghana boxing up that level again."

Doegbe's April 28 date against Magdaleno is unlikely to generate anything close to the sort of interest Nelson's bouts did. They were national events on their own.

But the boxing legend reckons Doegbe has the attitude to become the new face of the sport because, "he can box, he can fight and he looks like he has the right attitude."

Attitude is something Nelson says is generally lacking in this generation of fighters: "A lot of these boxers say they want to be world champions but they turn up late for training, press conferences, they don't train hard enough, and don't feel the need to sacrifice. It doesn't work that way."