Immediately after becoming the new Ghana Boxing Authority (GBA) president, Abraham Kotei-Neequaye told BoxingAfrica.com, “I am not going to neglect anybody just because I won the election.”
As outlined in “The GBA & The Destruction of Ghana Boxing, Part I,” Neequaye, using GBA funds, began his tenure by purchasing a new car and then remodeling GBA offices before turning his attention toward Ghana boxing stakeholders.
All official stakeholders in Ghana boxing (boxers, trainers, referees, managers, promoters, etc.) pay an annual licensing fee to the GBA. A promoter’s license for a first-time applicant traditionally cost GH¢1000 and its renewal, GH¢500. In the case of Ghana boxing managers, the first-time applicant fee was GH¢500 and the renewal amount, GH¢200.
One of Neequaye’s first acts was to increase those fees for everyone—and not by a little.
The first-time applicant fee for promoters increased from GH¢1000 to GH¢3000. The renewal fee moved from GH¢500 to GH¢1500. For managers, the first-time applicant fee soared from GH¢500 to GH¢2000, with the renewal amount also shooting up from GH¢200 to GH¢1000.
The aggressive increases elicited outrage from stakeholders who felt they should have at least been consulted before a decision was made. In response, the GBA stated that their statutes gave them the right to review and change licensing fees.
In other words, they can do whatever they want, even if it means hurting the sport the GBA was designed to protect.
RICHARD COMMEY & STREETWISE MANAGEMENT
On January 14, 2022, the GBA indefinitely suspended former IBF lightweight champion Richard Commey and his manager, Streetwise Management CEO Michael Amoo-Bediako.
Neither received formal notice although one was distributed to members of the Ghana sports media.
This wasn’t the first time the pair drew sanctions from the GBA for speaking out. As with the prior suspension, this latest one was for “disrespectful” remarks made regarding GBA practices.
It began when Commey, a Ghanaian who resides in the United States, fought Vasiliy Lomachenko on December 11, 2021. He was paid $700,000 for the bout.
Shortly after, the GBA demanded 5% of Commey’s purse through an official letter. If this wasn’t done, the letter stated, Amoo-Bediako would no longer be allowed to work as a manager in Ghana and his fighters would be informed of this in writing.
On January 11, 2022, Neequaye appeared on Ghana’s Joy News to address the situation, citing clause 18 of the GBA rulebook which reads, “Boxers licensed by the Ghana Boxing Authority and fighting outside of the country, whether under the flag of Ghana or not, are expected to remit a percentage sum of their purse to the Authority.”
It should be noted that the clause doesn’t specify a percentage. Amoo-Bediako, a UK-based Ghanaian, met with the GBA to discuss the matter.
“It was a pretty heated conversation,” Amoo-Bediako said of his sit-down with Neequaye at GBA offices in Accra. “There is no rule that entitles the GBA to any funding because [Richard] is not a resident here, he doesn’t live here. He pays his commissions, his taxes and everything he does in the US, as he has done since 2017.”
Commey isn’t licensed by the GBA and thus, does not fall under their auspices.
“[Neequaye] said to me, if that’s the case then he will not allow Richard to fight under the Ghanaian flag,” said Amoo-Bediako. “How can you tell a Ghanaian not to be a Ghanaian? I asked him, ‘On what authority do you have to tell Richard he can’t fight under the Ghanaian flag?’ I was told I should wait and see.”
When Commey and Amoo-Bediako continued to speak out, the GBA banned them, sending a warning shot to those who won’t acquiesce to what amounts to financial coercion. Nothing, however, could prepare Ghana boxing stakeholders for what was to come.
THE GHANA PROFESSIONAL BOXING LEAGUE
On December 23, 2021, the GBA held a press conference at Trust Sports Emporium in Accra to announce the new Ghana Professional Boxing League. The league would pit fighters from local gyms against each other with the goal of keeping them active and developing talent.
Broadcasters IMAX Media Group pledged $1.7 million over five years in sponsorship money to the league. The GBA granted IMAX a promotional license as well as sole broadcasting rights.
“This league is not going to destroy the works of our promoters as many believe and that is why we are offering the chance to them to stage bouts in between,” said Neequaye.
Local promoters were skeptical, arguing that it was a conflict of interest for the sport’s regulatory body to partner with a rival promoter. Their worst fears were confirmed last month.
As discussed in Part I of this series, a Ghana Professional League event initially scheduled for March 19 was moved to March 26 due to the GBA’s issues booking Accra’s Bukom Boxing Arena (stay tuned for more on this subject at a later date).
At the time, Cabic Promotions had already gotten clearance from the GBA for a March 26 show at the Idrowhyt Event Centre in Accra. When the new league date was announced, Cabic protested, citing established conventional practices in Ghana which allowed for only one event per day in the Accra region. Any other boxing event on that date would have to occur in another region.
Cabic called on the GBA to remain a “true regulator… The GBA cannot be a player and a regular at the same time.” Yet the GBA insisted on proceeding with the March 26 date. Fortunately for Cabic, further venue issues forced the GBA to move the pro league date to April 2.
The GBA’s actions contradicted their December 26 ruling regarding Box Office Promotions and Cabic Promotions. The two outfits looked to stage a card on December 26. Neequaye would not allow the two shows to occur on the same date.
Was the GBA’s financial stake in the league the reason they were willing to violate an established policy? Details regarding the IMAX-GBA deal are unclear. The GBA refuses to disclose them to stakeholders, in spite of their requests to review the agreement.
According to the terms revealed at the launch, the GBA receives $300,000-$400,000 annually from IMAX. The fighters are paid a paltry GH¢1,000 ($136) to participate in each event. The GBA initially proposed the fighters be paid even less, GH¢600 ($83), before relenting to harsh feedback.
Where the rest of the funding goes is uncertain. The lack of transparency is troubling to stakeholders. In protest, many of Ghana’s major promoters and managers have instructed their fighters to boycott the league, leading to a diluted product. A case in point, one league headliner featured former WBO Africa super bantamweight champion Isaac Sackey (25-2-1, 20 KOs) against an Isaac Taylor making his pro debut.
Such mismatches could lead to further trouble for Ghana boxing’s global standing. In a 2021 email obtained by BoxingAfrica.com, Boxrec.com which is the official statistical bookkeeper of the sport, described the GBA as the most corrupt boxing organization in the world. It does not appear the new regime will alter this reputation.
Ghana boxing has produced nine world champions and all but one of the nation’s Olympic medals. Names like Azumah Nelson brought glory to the nation. But in recent years, the amount of high-level boxers from Ghana has waned, as cases of corruption have increased. Neequaye was ushered in under the guise of change. Yet his first eight months in office suggests more of the same.
To read “The GBA & The Destruction of Ghana Boxing, Part I,” click HERE