On September 19, 2016, Ghana’s Graphic newspaper published an article titled, “Commey Lost from his Corner.” The article quoted Australian-based promoter Nii Korley Collinson, who placed Richard Commey’s split decision loss to the formidable Robert Easter Jr. squarely at the feet of Commey’s cornermen. Mr. Collinson’s words are a strong reminder that it is often those farthest from God who boast of living near to a church.
This article isn’t meant to knock Mr. Collinson. However, his criticisms of Team Commey are a microcosm of the ailments infecting Ghana boxing today. It begins with the sports media.
As a voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America, our goal is to foster the highest professional and ethical standards in boxing journalism. Sadly, the author of the Graphic article does not appear to make any effort to reach out to Commey’s corner for their perspective. If they did, it isn’t noted.
In the midst of writing this article, I made several attempts to reach Mr. Collinson as I could not find any major boxing events that he’d promoted and I wanted to verify his credentials and clarify his claims. While he may be a true aficionado of the sport, he clearly wasn’t at the Commey fight, neither was he involved in it.
On September 9, I covered Easter vs. Commey for Boxing News (UK) magazine. The ebb and flow from ringside action was fantastic—a Fight of the Year candidate, most concurred. With the fight hanging in the balance, Easter decked a wobbled Commey with repeated rights in the twelfth, winning the stanza that would be the difference in outcome. Nevertheless, the consensus in press row was that there was no real loser on that night. Most came away impressed by the performance of the unheralded Ghanaian and called for an immediate rematch.
However, Mr. Collinson observed that, “What happened in round 12 was from [Commey’s] corner and anytime a boxer makes a mistake you blame the coach, not the boxer.”
Andrew Golota’s trainer would laugh at such a notion. Was it Mike Tyson’s corner that told him to bite Evander Holyfield’s ear? And how did Mr. Collinson know everything that was said in between rounds anyway? Such a comment not only undercuts the team’s efforts, it downplays a terrific performance from an Easter who, lest we forget, wasn’t paid to lose either.
“Commey is now too big to be handled by Carl Lokko alone,” Collinson continues. “He needs an experienced technical brain to join their team.”
Perhaps Collinson is unaware that U.S.-based Kwame Asante assisted Team Commey in preparing for Easter. Asante is one of the most experienced trainers from Ghana, having guided Joshua Clottey, Joseph Agbeko, Ben Tackie and Tokunbo Olajide, among others, while they honed their craft stateside. Further, Lokko is no slouch either, taking Commey, a fighter with barely any amateur experience, to an undefeated record, a world title shot, and a performance that proves he belongs.
Hopefully Mr. Collinson didn’t mean that a non-Ghanaian should be added to the team. That sort of thinking has hampered our own national football team—and some would say African progress. Regardless, he would do well to listen to Mike Stafford, trainer of Easter Jr. (and champions Adrien Broner and Rau’shee Warren), who went into Commey’s lockerroom after the fight to have a private meeting with fighter and trainer. Stafford would leave the meeting lauding Team Commey’s gameplan. Or maybe Collinson should note that numerous publications and journalists scored the bout in Commey’s favor. How about message boards worldwide, where surprised fans posted endless comments on Commey’s technical progression?
If a corner is to take all blame for any mistake committed by a fighter, shouldn’t they take all credit as well? This writer believes that teams win and lose together. September 9th wasn’t a loss for Richard Commey. It was a win for Ghana, proof that the nation is a still a force on the world stage and can continue to produce world champions.
On July 21, 1982, a young Ghanaian fighter was granted a world championship bout on short notice without proper sparring or preparation. He would fight valiantly against a far more experienced fighter but ultimately fall short of winning a world title. If the story sounds familiar it’s because I’m talking about Azumah Nelson, not Richard Commey. No one blamed Nelson’s team for his late round falter. Instead, they recognized that finger pointing might uplift the individual doing the pointing but tear down the greater community. And if it was our ancestors who said, “Nsa baako nkura adesoa,” then why haven’t we learned from them?