Emmanuel “Gameboy” Tagoe should be upset. Given what’s transpired in recent weeks, he’d have every right to be.
Instead, Tagoe wears a brave face – although it isn’t hard to see the frustration simmering underneath.
Perhaps it’s the understanding that nothing comes easy in boxing, especially for boxers fighting their way out of Africa toward a bigger stage.
Tagoe (31-1, 15 KOs) knows all about toiling. He did it for years in his native Ghana, pushing toward what, just a few weeks ago, appeared to be an opportunity to fight for the WBO world lightweight title.
Tagoe was far more optimistic then. Undefeated phenom Ryan García was to face the Ghanaian for a shot at the world title. Garcia opted instead to fight for the WBC mandatory position.
Then, in a July 13 article posted here on BoxingAfrica.com, the WBO announced that it would order a box-off between the four highest rated available contenders in order to establish a mandatory challenger for their 135-pound champion, Vasiliy Lomachenko.
Among the top six in the current WBO ratings, four boxers—Ryan García, Lee Selby, George Kambosos, Jr. and Jorge Linares—were committed to other fights.
This left Tagoe, the WBO No. 3 ranked contender, to face Ukraine’s Denys Berinchyk (13-0, 7KOs), the next highest-rated WBO lightweight contender at number four. Tagoe promoter Lou DiBella and adviser Peter Kahn immediately began negotiations with representatives of Berinchyk.
That’s when the unthinkable occurred.
In a move that would’ve made even the most hardened politician cringe, the WBO shut down the process altogether, cancelling the box-off.
The primary reason cited by the sanctioning body was that, “it is highly unknown when will international fighters such as Emmanuel Tagoe, which this Committee has been advised is currently in Africa, will be allowed entry within the United States of America, and whether domestic fighters be restricted from international travel, or even in those jurisdictions where boxing activity has partially begun refrain from competition as a result of the pandemic.”
It’s a head-scratching decision given that neither Berinchyk and Tagoe are based in the US and would not need to fight there.
The more cynical boxing minds believe that the WBO, which has a cozy relationship with Top Rank Promotions, plans to move one of Top Rank’s fighters into a position where they could fight for their lightweight title.
In the meantime, Tagoe has now lost out on what could have been a career-changing bout. Nevertheless, the slick boxer who impressed observers while training in the US earlier this year, is keeping his head held high.
“My team are working on getting the best for me in my career and I trust them to do a good job,” Tagoe told BoxingAfrica.com during a recent training session in Accra’s The Gym. “The WBO is a sanctioning body that knows why it cancelled the tournament and I don’t want to accuse them of any wrongdoing.
“Sometimes I feel sad for the delay in fighting for the world title because I’ve proved myself over the years that I deserve a shot.”
Even so, Team Tagoe will continue to work on a bout versus Berinchyk, although it may bring both no closer to a world title. Regardless, “Gameboy” is determined to realize his dreams.
Current champion Lomachenko, who also holds the WBC and WBA belts, is slated to unify versus IBF titleholder Teofimo Lopez in October.
It’s a fight Tagoe says he’ll be watching with keen interest.
“I have my eyes set on the two top fighters in the division which is Lomachenko and Teofimo Lopez,” he said. “In their fight, I have my bet on Lomachenko because he is more composed than Lopez.
“The only thing that I believe can help Lopez is a killer punch in that bout. I’m saying this because even if I have to choose a winner on knockout, it will be Lomachenko and I don’t see Lopez winning on points either.”
Tagoe says he and his team are currently working on a return to the US.
“I don’t think it will be a problem going back because the country knows the magnitude of my fight and I believe they will assist in getting me there,” said Tagoe. “I’m just waiting on who comes up for the fight and then I move.”
“I still have the strength and talent to deliver a world title and I’m ready to achieve that with the little time I have left in my career.”