? ?By Kwesi Atta Sakyi ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?

Patrick-Allotey-wild-guyOn the night of Saturday 15th March 2014, Patrick Allotey of Ghana slugged it out with Charles Manyuchi, the Zimbabwean-born and Zambia-based ABU champion from Masvingo, for the coveted WBC silver welterweight title belt. Allotey veritably wore Ghana on his heart, as he entered the ring upbeat, as the WBC defending champion in the 12 round clincher, draped and drenched literarily in the colours of the Ghanaian national flag of green, gold, red, and black of the black star. He was to taste his first defeat in his illustrious career of 35 fights, from the hands of lack-lustre Manyuchi.

Earlier on, in a pre-match verbal exchange of vibes and altercation on local TV, the loquacious, loud-mouthed, and garrulous Manyuchi, who is tagged an entertainer boxer by the Zambian media, had volubly bragged and hyped on ZNBC TV that he was going to serve Allotey as dinner to his vociferous, partisan, extremely rowdy and fanatical fans, to which Allotey had replied that he did not buy the verbal assaults and prattling of his opponent, as he preferred to do the talking with his fists in the ring. He served notice that he had come to give Manyuchi a beating, and a raw hiding for that.

The evening started around 7p.m with four supporting bouts, involving three Zimbabwean boxers and one Congolese, engaging their Zambian counterparts. In a women?s warm up welterweight bout between Monalisa Sibanda of Zimbabwe and Lolita Muzeya of Zambia, the latter won convincingly on points, though the shorter Sibanda gave a good account of herself as a veteran.

She was overwhelmed by the longer reach of her taller opponent.? However, both female boxers gave a good account of themselves as regards ring craft. They reminded me of Leila Ali, daughter of world boxing legend, Muhammed Ali, and in recent memory, the exploits of Esther Phiri, and another undefeated Zambian legend in female boxing.

In another bout, Donald Kampamba, the short and stocky Zambian idol, easily won his fight in the light heavyweight category against his taller and lanky southpaw Zimbabwean opponent, via a technical knockout. The effervescent and euphoric Zambian crowd at the ringside cheered him on wildly, amidst heavy quaffing of Jameson whiskies and Gilbert?s whiskies and gins.

The extent of boozing during the show could be gauged after the tournament, by the number of empty green bottles of Jamesons and empties of other alcoholic beverages sprawled all over the floor of the hall in the exquisite and magnificent Chinese-built, multi-purpose Government Complex. Though magnificent, the indoor facility was criticised by Allotey?s coach as lacking proper ventilation, being an indoor facility.

There was also Takudzwa Kuchocha from Zimbabwe versus Mbiya Mkanku from Congo DR. Then there came the WBC women?s silver bantamweight title bout between Pia Mazelanikia of Germany and Catherine Phiri of Zambia. ?The young grade nine pupil, Catherine, held both the ABU and WBF titles. Catherine, from Chris Malunga?s Oriental Quarries stable, made easy work of her German opponent by winning the fight via a technical knockout in the second round, as she was too much of a big puncher and slugger for her diminutive but much older German opponent.

Catherine is now the proud holder of three belts, including what she won on the night, the much coveted WBC belt. The manager of Pia refused to give a post-match interview to the press, claiming that he suspected doping of Catherine, which remark, for many observers here, sounded absurd, very flimsy and unprofessional. However, defeat can be very bitter, and even sweet grapes which are unattainable, could look very bitter or sour.

The referee for the bout was Fred Ghartey from Ghana. He gave a very good account of himself as he was very professional and efficient in handling the match. He was meticulous, firm and fair. Other officials were from South Africa, Kenya, Tunisia and Zambia. Then there came the biggest tournament of the evening, the icing on the cake, between our own idolised Patrick Allotey of Ghana, against the much-touted Zimbabwean ABU champion, Charles Manyuchi.

The boxers were so much incensed against each other that the sparks were literarily flying off them. In an explosive first round, there was such a barrage and flurry of punches that by the third round, they were both spent horses panting for breath, and they traded wild punches into the fray, with excessive clinching, brawling, pushing and shoving, throwing down, among many ugly unscientific boxing tactics, with Manyuchi being the major culprit as he sometimes went into wheeling his right arm in the air before punching, what he termed his ?windmill punch?.

Allotey found it extremely frustrating to nail down his opponent, who resorted to the most bizarre of tactics. All the flurry of punches he rained on Allotey were not telling enough, as Allotey held his guard intact and staunchly held his ground, occasionally opening up gaps in Manyuchi?s unguarded moments.

Manyuchi?s style was indeed very unprofessional. Many of his punches missed target, and when they did, they were coolly absorbed by Allotey, who seemed to be bidding his time towards the end to open up and close in for the kill.

On two occasions, Allotey was pushed by his opponent through the ropes to land outside the ring. In the eighth round, matters came to a head when in his Ali-style dancing and bobbing backwards in the ring, Allotey got to his blue corner, and fell off flat on his belly, diagonal to the corner. He had apparently slid off the body of his opponent. The lady referee from South Africa, Sylvia Mokaila, did not give the mandatory count of 10, but urged him to get up. Allotey turned round, belly up, which I hear technically did him in, as having given up. He had been frustrated enough to call it quits, apparently.

He later got up, spit out his gum shield on the floor of the ring, looking visibly dejected with himself, and his lips were showing some signs of blood. That was the point I knew he had thrown in the towel, to our chagrin and dismay. However, he had fought gallantly, showing glimpses and flashes of the genius and master tactician, the one and only boxing Professor, Azumah ?Zoom Zoom? Nelson. Allotey?s extraordinary finesse and stagecraft, combined with a wily and an accomplished artful dodging and ducking of wild blows, was acknowledged by some fans after the bout, who paid him much glowing tribute, and said he was the better boxer as he was classic.

During the bout, it was very challenging for his unorthodox opponent, Manyuchi, to hit him on his face, as Allotey opened a deep cut on Manyuchi?s right cheek. Had Allotey hit hard on that target, and closed in with punishing punches, the game would have taken a different turn, and he would have turned the tables in his favour.

However, I do not think his seconds gave him the right tips, because in that kind of scenario, you either go in for a knockout if you have the stamina, in case you fail to achieve the shortcut of TKO, or you prepare a sucker uppercut punch to give your opponent, the type the late Joe Frazier used to administer to the legendary Ali, during the few times they met in the ring.

The pattern of clumsy brawling marred the beauty of the bout, as on several occasions, the referee intervened and warned them both and deducted some marks, all to no avail. ??After the fourth round, the MC announced to our utter chagrin and consternation, that all three judges had Manyuchi ahead with 40 points, with Allotey trailing with 36, 35 and 33.

To say the least, I have never encountered such a clumsy style of boxing as that of Manyuchi.? At a point in time, I asked myself whether what we were witnessing was that of kick boxing, a street corner brawl, a WWF wrestling brawl or a scene in Chinua Achebe?s Things Fall Apart, where Okonkwo, the protagonist of the story, drew a bye to face the much-dreaded Amalinze the cat, known among the nine villages of Mbanta and Umuafia as a celebrated, accomplished and invincible wrestler.

Readers will recall that earlier on in June 2013, Manyuchi had defeated Patrice Sou Toke of Burkina Faso on technical knockout to claim the ABU title. It was the same man Allotey had vanquished earlier on to win the WBC belt.? By way of? number of fights? experience, Allotey had won far more fights than his opponent, and he was therefore expected to live up to his billing, even though psychologically, his older opponent had home ground advantage and the fact that he held on to the ABU belt.

The flamboyant boxer from Zimbabwe was spurred on by having his native highlife played for him before commencement of proceedings. The Zimbabwean and Zambian support was massive, while we could count on only eight Ghanaians present, including the boxer himself and three of his entourage.

The recorded national anthems of Ghana, Zambia and Zimbabwe were played, though to me, the tune for Ghana was not an exact replica or rendition, even though it made good the fact that our presence was recognised, with our national flag fluttering beside the other flags in the ring. There were just four of us resident Ghanaians by the ringside, apart from the three who had come on the entourage of Allotey, namely Referee Fred Ghartey, Mr Nii Lante and Mr? Ofori Asare,? Allotey?s coach. Ghana was indeed very thin on the ground, and it did not reflect well on us as residents, neither did it reflect well on the part of the Ghana High Commission, which was not officially represented.

After the bout, the corner of Allotey declared dissatisfaction about the way and manner the bout ended, and they declared that Allotey had been robbed. The WBC representative was Mr Houcine Houichi from Tunisia, who is not new to Zambia, as he had in the past presided over many tournaments here. ?It is very strange that in the past three decades, Zambia seems to be the Waterloo of many Ghanaian boxers. It was only Azumah Nelson, who in 1982, early on in his chequered career, won here in Lusaka when he fought the late Zambian legend, Charm Shuffle Chiteule, whom he knocked out in the tenth round to clinch the Commonwealth featherweight title at the Woodlands Stadium.

Sometime in 1991, Sugar Ray Akwei arrived in Zambia to box the late Zambian Commonwealth legendary boxer, Lottie Gunduzani Mwale, and even though he lost, accounts had it that Akwei discharged himself creditably well, to the extent that his opponent appeared on TV the following day with a swollen face, and confessed that any time Akwei hit him, he felt as though he had been hit by a concrete.

Readers will recall that in September 2013, Isaac Sowah, another Ghanaian boxer, accompanied by the legendary boxing professor, Azumah? Zoom Zoom? Nelson, had arrived in Lusaka, and was given such a terrible beating by Manyuchi that the Ghanaian boxing legend advised Sowah to hang his gloves for good. Of course, Azumah had come on a separate mission and was not part of the corner of Sowah. Sowah made us Ghanaians in Zambia feel so much ashamed, as the Zimbabwean boxer pulverised, pummelled and punched him at will, into total annihilation and complete oblivion. It was as if Sowah had no limbs to defend himself from the barrage and torrent of the pugilistic onslaught.

After the Sowah saga of shame in Lusaka, the manager of Manyuchi, Chris Malunga of Oriental Quarries, complained bitterly and asked to be given better boxers from Ghana.? We also concurred in toto with him on that score, in his demand. Some time back, about 7 or eight years ago, Ransford Mensah, a Ghanaian heavyweight boxer, came to slug it out here with a Zambian heavyweight boxer nicknamed, ?No Pressure? Chingangu, and the far bigger and far stronger Zambian opponent, made our man look like a paperweight, and a punching bag in the ring. One would pause and reflect, ?Why has Zambia become the Waterloo of many a Ghanaian boxer? Do we not have quality boxers in Ghana? What has gone amiss in Ghanaian boxing circles??

These questions serve as food for thought.? I learnt on some good authority that our boxers in Ghana, unlike their Zambian counterparts, are neglected by the authorities, that they lack modern training facilities, that they have no sponsors as they fend for themselves, that they lack adequate training before they venture out, that they are undisciplined, that they do not follow instructions of their handlers, that they are complacent, that they are not much exposed, among a plethora of other causes.

If so, what is GBA doing to arrest the waning trend of boxing in Ghana, as some time back, we had produced world-class boxers such as Sulley Shittu,? Azumah Nelson, D.K. Poison, Floyd Robertson, Joe Tetteh, Ike Quartey, Eddie Blay, Roy Ankrah, among many others. Is Ghana seeing the nadir or end-time of our glorious boxing days?? I think we have the raw talent, as displayed here last night by Allotey. We only have to get our act together and emerge strongly to restore and redeem our waning boxing image. All said and done, Allotey fumbled and tumbled last night, amidst boos and jeers from the partisan ringside crowd, and his blues were not made any better by the cacophony of boos, catcalls and the amount of booze consumed by the ringside spectators.

Allotey?s bloom is now turned a blighter. However, better and brighter days are ahead of him, as he is just in his early 20s, compared to the 26 years of his opponent. I dream that one day, both Allotey and Manyuchi will have a crack at the world titles, and meet the likes of Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, to make it big onto the global stage, and carve their names into the global hall of fame, like Azumah Nelson did. On their way up, they may encounter the likes of Timothy Bradley, Michael Martinez, Juan Manuel Marquez, Saul Alvarez, Adrien Broner, Amir Khan, Nonito Donnire, Miguel Cotto, Danny Garcia, Freddie Roach and Ruslan Provodnikov.


[email protected]??? ? 2014???? Kwesi Atta Sakyi


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