Michael Amoo-Bediako may have spent the holidays under palm trees, but this was no vacation. The UK-based boxing manager returned to his native Ghana where, other than spending time with his mother and enjoying an occasional local beer with a roadside kebab, business was the order of the day.
Last April, Amoo-Bediako launched Streetwise Foundation, an organization that provides boxers with the necessary tools to ply their craft. Upon landing in Ghana last month, he began distributing those items to fight gyms all over the country.
“Things went really well,” said Amoo-Bediako, who is back in England. “We were able to distribute some much-needed boxing equipment to various gyms and also to the national amateur boxing team.”
Those efforts were lauded by Tackie Teiko Tsuru II, the king of the Ga State which covers Ghana’s capital city of Accra. Nevertheless, the issues facing Ghana boxing run much deeper, as the long-time boxing manager noted.
“From an amateur boxing perspective, not enough government investment is going on, it’s in complete shambles. The national amateur squad doesn’t even have their own training base, which is criminal. The last time I was in Ghana they were training at the sports hall in the national stadium, without a boxing ring, bag, or skipping rope in sight. It was pitiful and embarrassing.”
Amoo-Bediako has called for a complete overhaul of the Ghana amateur boxing system, citing, among other things, the need for an oversight committee to halt “favoritism toward certain boxers” and an age/duration limit for those on the national team.
“There were some boxers in the squad that had been there for nearly 10 years but failed to win a medal,” he pointed out. “That’s not right if they are not challenging or winning medals. They should be omitted and let the younger ones develop and come through otherwise they lose heart and turn professional before they have had enough amateur experience.
“But the real issue is the lack of investment. How do you expect our boxers to compete with other countries when they are not even being funded properly?”
Perhaps that’s why so few have been able to over the past few years. Names like Patrick Allotey, Dodzi Kemeh and Habib Ahmed are some of the few home-grown fighters who were found wanting when they fought in the U.S. It’s an issue discussed behind closed doors only.
“There seems to be many fractions within the boxing fraternity in Ghana,” said Amoo-Bediako. “I spoke with many different parties and although they all seem to have a love and a desire for Ghana boxing to do well, there seems to be a difference of opinion on how it should be run. Without mentioning any names, I get the feeling no one is happy with the way boxing is run but no one is willing to take a stand through fear of losing his or her position.”
Conversely, boxers such as Commey and Isaac Dogboe established themselves in the US by being regularly featured on major platforms there yet have struggled to gain traction in Ghana.
“TV is the way to drive the sport on an upward curve,” said Amoo-Bediako. “Just look at the rest of the world, all the big promoters. Premier Boxing Champions (PBC), Top Rank, Matchroom and Golden Boy all have solid foundations with great TV deals. But in Ghana, I couldn’t even get anyone to show Richard Commey’s world title fights. They would rather show Antony Joshua vs. Andy Ruiz and neither are Ghanaians. How are you going to grow the sport in your own country if you are unwilling to show your only world champion on TV?”
It’s a far cry from the days of old, when an Azumah Nelson bout was plastered on every TV screen in Ghana. Yet the country is still home for guys like Commey, who lost his title to the undefeated Teofimo Lopez last December and immediately returned to Ghana, where he’s been making the rounds with his manager.
“Going back to Ghana was an eye opener for Richard as it made him realize how much he is loved there and by his people of the Ga State,” said Amoo-Bediako. “All the talk was of him putting this setback behind him and becoming a two-time world champion.”
Despite the defeat, Commey is a fight or two away from another world title shot. He is expected to return to the ring in May. Another Streetwise Management standout, Duke Micah, has amassed a 24-0 (19 KOs) and is also planning a late Spring return.
“Duke is very close to a world title shot,” said Amoo-Bediako. “So, Keith Connolly and I have been discussing our next move and hopefully we will have news soon.”
Amoo-Bediako has also added a new face to the Streetwise squad. At 6-foot-7, 26-year-old Ahmed Abdulai towers over nearly all of his fellow light heavyweights. A former member of the national team, the plan is for him to continue to hone his craft at home before venturing outside African shores.
The move could be a coup for Amoo-Bediako. But returning Ghana boxing to its days of glory remains paramount. That begins with the grassroots effort to grow the sport at the amateur level. Amoo-Bediako hopes his foundation will lead the charge.
“My efforts will mean absolutely nothing, if we don’t leave something behind to create more champions. That means real change. One look at the state of Ghana boxing is all you need to know that the time for these changes is now.”