Last weekend, Ghana’s own Richard Commey gave hitherto undefeated Alejandro Luna a taste of what it is like to be beaten, when he knocked him out in in the sixth round of the bout. It was an IBF lightweight eliminator and has earned him a rematch against Robert Easter Jr., for a shot at the world title.
Back in January, Ghana hosted a world title bout between Emmanuel “Game Boy” Tagoe, and Fernando Saucedo of Argentina. It was a fight that came with its own issues and criticisms. Some people felt that our boxer should be testing himself against tougher opposition, and others thought he was not taking the fight seriously enough. Some, too, myself included, had a few issues with some of the referee’s decisions. But all these issues aside, Emmanuel Tagoe was ready for the fight.
Not long after that bout, in faraway Corpus Christi, Texas, USA, another of our boxers, Habib “Wild Hurricane” Ahmed, was making his debut outside Ghana, challenging for the WBO super middleweight title against the champion, Gilberto Ramirez of Mexico. We all know how that ended. Let’s just say it was not a good night for the Ghanaian. Most of the post-fight commentary suggests that he was not ready to take this fight, but to make a quick buck, his team allowed it.
If this is true, it just brings to light a problem that seems to have existed in our sports for decades. We always hear about agents and promoters selfishly putting their interests before the people they are supposed to represent. Even though this dark side of sports exists throughout the world, it seems more prevalent here in Africa, particularly with our football.
By readiness, I am looking at it in two senses. Firstly, our readiness to take on personal career challenges, and being pushed by agents to accept these challenges. Secondly, the readiness of the greater team beyond the competitor himself. Like how ready our national is team is for AFCON tournaments. Or how ready our national women’s team was for international friendlies against Germany and France in 2016 and 2017 respectively. That is another discussion for another day.
If we are to become competitive in sports, we need to take the issue of preparedness very seriously. Imagine what our national football team would become if we had more strikers to compete with Asamoah Gyan, or even complement him? Two members of the Satellites’ 2009 squad instantly come to mind when I think of what could have been. Ransford Osei and Dominic Adiyiah were top prospects after winning the World Cup in Egypt. But especially with Adiyiah, who was the MVP and top scorer at the mundial, it seems he was thrown in the deep end too early. Signing for AC Milan proved to be a mistake he would not recover from. Then there is the case of another one who didn’t make the team, Sadick Adams. Once again, his is rumoured to be a case of selfish agents.
Even though we did not qualify for the Olympic football tournament in Rio two years ago, we went with a fairly decent 16-man contingent (fairly decent, considering that it was almost double the London 2012 contingent) made up of weightlifters, athletes, and for the first time, swimmers. Our lack of preparation was evident, especially in the track events. Just last year, at the IAAF World Championships, it was the same story.
We must create a sports ecosystem to tackle this, and the many other problems we have. Merely having talent will never be enough. We need to equally handle this from a business point of view. When we have an ecosystem where everything is in its right place and we have partners to help take care of various aspects of an athlete’s preparations. From medical centers where the competitors’ physical conditions can be properly examined to merchandising companies, who ensure that the teams are properly kitted, through properly-functioning and well-equipped federations, this ecosystem will make us much better prepared for sports battles.
We cannot have an effective ecosystem without proper regulation either. I think we need to have a look at all the federations’ regulations, and where necessary, pursue reforms to meet modern standards, and enhance preparedness for our sportsmen. It is time we focus more on preparation for our sportsmen. In addition to physical preparation for the sporting tasks ahead, we need to prepare them mentally and prepare them better as human beings to understand what they are dealing with so they can avoid being caught up in unnecessary trouble like Sadick Adams.
We need to make sure that the other preparations such as travel arrangements and even their outfits are arranged in good time. It happens that when these things are not properly taken care of, it affects the mentality of the players and makes them less prepared than they should be. But the bottom line, as always is investment. Without the investment all this will remain talk. The business space to make this happen is wide open. Let’s use it to make us better. On this note, I wish Richard Commey all the best in his upcoming fight against Robert Easter. Adequate preparation should put him in good stead to add his name to the illustrious list of Ghanaian boxing world champions. It is time.
Willem Alexander Coleman
Director of Operations and Social Projects
Centa14 Sports and Entertainment