Do Ghanaians have a problem with me?’ Emmanuel “Game Boy” Tagoe asked bitterly during a media encounter ahead of his fight against Fernando David Saucedo.
Before that was an emotional rant aimed at the Sports Writers Association of Ghana for handing the sports personality of the year award to ex footballer Anthony Baffoe, for his exploits at FIFA that saw him coordinate historic matches at the 2016 Rio Olympic game as well as the finals of the 2016 Club World Cup.
Tagoe may have earned the right to be mentioned among the illustrious few to have won world titles for Ghana but that fact in itself has become problematic for him and his promoters Baby Jet promotions, which is bankrolled by star footballer Asamoah Gyan.
Most Ghanaians are simply indifferent about Tagoe’s status as a world champion but it will be tantamount to heresy to put him in the same bracket with the country’s other world champions. Azumah Nelson, Ike Quartey, Alfred Kotey, Joshua Clottey, Joseph Agbeko…Emmanuel Tagoe. It will be sheer folly on the part of Tagoe to think himself even remotely close to Azumah Nelson and the other Ghanaian world champions despite being in possession of the IBO world title in his division.
Tagoe also lamented the lack of recognition vis-à-vis his status as a world champion before his fight against Saucedo. He referenced supposed “hype” around Richard Commey who lost to IBF Lightweight title holder Robert Easter Junior and Isaac Dogboe who beat Caesar Juarez to set up a mandatory clash with Jesse Magdaleno for the world title.
For a country that takes so much pride in the sport of boxing and the men who have brought glory to a land where structures for the development of the sport reflects its deep socioeconomic woes, Tagoe’s lack of recognition relative to other Ghanaian world champions raises questions. The fact that he is currently Ghana’s only world title holder makes it even more inexplicable.
He’s often blamed the lack of support and recognition on the Ghanaian media.
“I don’t remember the Ghanaian media making mention of my world title but they always mention other boxers. They always hype Richard Commey and Isaac Dogboe but compare their titles to mine and tell me if I get the support I deserve’
He added that the media is ‘always hyping them (Commey and Dogboe) and blacking me out”.
Ghanaians love their world champions but there’s a feeling that this particular world champion hasn’t earned that status. Is Emmanuel Tago the biblical prophet without honour in his hometown, among his relatives and his family? Perhaps not.
Emmanuel Tagoe’s clash against Filipino Ronald Pontillas in 2013 at the Accra sports was meant to repair his reputation and erase any doubts about his abilities, after what many saw to be a rather dubious majority decision against George Ashie a year prior. It however deepened doubts and raised further questions about his prowess and credentials. Five months after what many considered to be the height of robbery in Ghanaian boxing Emmanuel Tagoe won in a similar fashion against Pontillas as Judge Fred Ghartey scored it a 115-115 draw. I covered the bout that night and in my opinion Judge Ghartey’s score card was as close to an accurate representation of what had transpired over 12 rounds. As you would expect the numbers on the other judges’ score cards left most people scratching their heads and questioning Game Boy’s quality. Judge Shadrack Aquaye scored it 116-112 in favour of Tagoe. If Mr. Aquaye’s numbers were shocking, Bertlin Adohn’s 118-111 for Tagoe was heart wrenching, and I wasn’t alone. Azumah Nelson, considered the greatest African boxer of all time restrained himself from criticizing Tagoe’s performance, deliberately throwing my questions regarding Game Boy’s performance back at me, but he did not hold back in his criticism of referee Roger Banor, who in his opinion frustrated the Filipino.
George Ashie won on the score cards of most spectators but the judges held different opinions. Nigerian judge Tony Legson scored the bout 114-114. Benin’s Bertin Adohn scored it 113-115 in favour of Tagoe. Ghanaian judge Confidence Hiagbe however shocked the crowd at the Accra Sports Stadium when his score card read 116-112 in favour of Tagoe. There were two sticking points from the figures that had Tagoe declared as the winner of that fight.First, Confidence Hiabge’s 116-112 was nowhere near the true reflection of the fight. Second and even more upsetting for many people was the fact that Ashie did not win on any of the judges score card despite being the better fighter in the view of many.
The reputation of Ghana boxing would have taken a battering after the Tagoe v Pontillas showdown but for the exploits of a Ghanaian Super Leightweight fighter who obliterated his Kenyan opponent Michael Odhiambo in spectacular fashion in one of the evening’s under card bouts. His Name? George “Red Tiger” Ashie. Emmanuel Tagoe fought in the main event but George Ashie was the name on everyone’s lip.
Emmanuel Tagoe and his handlers betray a lack of understanding about what it takes to be a star attraction in boxing. In modern day boxing a boxer must sell himself. Part of a boxer’s job is to sell tickets. Boxing is a business and no promoter will have a boxer on their show if he cannot sell himself through eye catching performances to draw crowds to his fight. This applies to the small promotions right up to the biggest global shows.
How does a fighter sell himself to the paying public? How does he make himself marketable for the top promoters? The obvious answer is through great, entertaining and consistent performances in the ring. Styles make fights they say.Ike Quartey was a specialist at breaking down opponents and wrecking havoc with his left jab. Azumah Nelson was a warrior who stood toe to toe with the very best in the world. He earned his status as a boxing hall of famer through sheer will, brawn and determination. What is Emmanuel Tagoe’s style?
Tagoe’s lack of recognition is not limited to Ghana. The most telling reason is because he’s fought just once outside Ghana. His 2013 fight in the US in front of a few hundred spectators against Gerardo Robles, who had lost a whooping 11 out his 27 fights failed to capture the attention of the American media and boxing fans. And why not? After eight rounds of terrible boxing exhibition, Robles failed to respond to the bell for the ninth.
Establishing yourself as a boxer in the US goes beyond winning a piece of horse leather with a metal plate in front. The fundamental feature of boxing may be its competitive aspect, but a chunk of its commercial weight rests in its entertainment value. There are countless examples of very talented boxers who were passed over and never got the opportunity their skills warranted. The US is the Mecca of boxing and out there being exciting is as important as winning. Tagoe beat Robles in the US but failed to leave a lasting impression. The dynamics of modern day boxing is such that whether in victory or defeat you must find a way to make the fans either love you or better still love to hate you. He failed to achieve either in his only appearance in Trump-Land.
As the International Boxing Organisation’s world Lightweight champion Emmanuel Tagoe is not rated by any of the other boxing sanctioning bodies. In a lot of ways it is indicative of the status of the IBO as a sanctioning body and the value of their titles. There are four major belts that are widely recognised as ‘legitimate’ world titles. These are the WBA, WBC, IBF and WBO titles.
How do I put this? The IBO world titles are worthless on their own unless a fighter holds other titles. In other words IBO world champions require one of the WBC, IBF, WBA and WBO titles to legitimize their status as world champions as is the case with heavyweight king Anthony Joshua.
The IBO as a sanctioning body is rated on the same level as the Universal Boxing Organisation (UBO), the Global Boxing Union (GBU), and the World Boxing Federation (WBF). To put it bluntly, the IBO is second rate. IBO belts are often associated with other belts for the purpose of providing unified champions with an ‘extra piece of arm candy’ for the cameras. IBO title fights by themselves receive little recognition, as seen from the Renold Quinlan v Chris Eubank ‘world title fight’ last year.
Robert Easter Junior holds the IBF Lightweight title. The WBC and WBA have Mikey Garcia and Jorge Linares as their Lightweight champions respectively. The WBO title is vacant after it was vacated by Terry Flanagan.
A fight involving any of these names is a potential Pay per view event. Throw in Mayweather promotions’ Gervonta Davis, Anthony Crolla, and Ghana’s Richard Commey and one begins to question how and why the IBO came up with Emmanuel Tagoe vs Mzonke Fana for a world title match up in Ghana. South African Fana had lost 10 of his 38 fights going into the Tagoe world title fight and was without question not a world championship material. He’s gone on to lose his last two fights after.
Emmanuel Tagoe’s desire to have the support and recognition of his country will be difficult at this point. Those 10 rounds against Fernando Saucedo were painful to watch not only because of the Argentine’s technical ineptitude but more so because of Tagoe’s boring style and needless comedy in the ring. It will also be difficult because getting proper fights against credible opponents in the shape of Jorge Linares, Mikey Garcia and Gervonta Davis look impossible. His lack of recognition in the US will always be a sticking point in any negotiation. Emmanuel Tagoe doesn’t command a following in the US and a showdown against any of these names in Ghana is out of the question.
It appears Tagoe’s options in his quest for recognition as a world champion are limited. His IBO title doesn’t guarantee him landing the big fights neither does his wretched US reputation. Emmanuel Tagoe called himself the “king and prophet” of Ghana boxing before his underwhelming victory against Fernando Saucedo. Unlike the biblical prophet with honour everywhere except his hometown, this prophet seems to have no honour anywhere.
Hans Mensah Andoh
Facebook: Hans Mensah Andoh