Feature: Frederick Lawson, from school dropout to boxing
Frederick Lawson, Ghana's welterweight contender, had to play truant at age 15 in order to get to the gym to learn boxing at the expense of his education.
It was his determination and commitment to boxing that led to his decision to trade schooling for boxing, having been introduced to the fistic sport by a Junior High School (JHS) mate who was an amateur boxer at the time.
Fast forward to 2018, the pugilist is now two fights away from challenging for the WBC welterweight title against South Africa's Chris Van Heereden in the semi-finals of the Jose Sulaiman WBC World Invitational Tournament to be announced later after the scheduled date of Saturday, August 25, in Toronto, Canada, was postponed.
The 29-year-old Ghanaian, who made his professional debut seven years ago, recounted his school days at Adabraka in Accra where he skippped classes just to make up for training under the tutelage of renowned boxing trainer, Lartekwei Lartey, at the Fit Square Gym at Kokomlemle.
Speaking to the Graphic Sports Online from his New York base, Lawson (27-1, 21 KOs) emphasised that he really had it tough choosing boxing over education since that was against the will of his parents.
He said the loss of his darling mother along the line paved the way for him to practice his passion since she always opposed his decision to box.
"Growing up, it was very difficult to choose boxing over school and I remember I used to skip school just to be at the gym to learn boxing, having been introduced to it by a colleague at Junior High.
"I remember telling Coach Lartey that I want to fight the boxers there and after beating almost everybody at the gym, I lost to one other person and that was where it all began,” he revealed.
"I was told by the coach to come back for training and after several training sessions and fights, I joined the national amateur team, the Black Bombers, before finally turning professional in 2011," Lawson recalled.
Turning professional and relocating to the US
Lawson made his professional debut against Nii Akrofi and went ahead to win his next 21 fights in Ghana, a feat that earned him prominence in his native country before relocating to the US in 2014.
It was his desire to win a world title that influenced his decision to move abroad in search of more experienced trainers and managers who would propel him to achieve his dream in boxing.
He began his aim to wrest the world title when he made his US debut by knocking out America's Mohammed Kayongo in 2014. However, his next fight with compatriot Raymond Narh the same year reunited him with an old friend and now manager, Jacob Zwennes, of the Errol Hawk Sports Management of New Jersey in the United States.
"Having beaten Kayongo, I fought Raymond Narh who was being managed by an old friend in Ghana, Jacob Narh. He went on to become my manager after I lost the promoter who brought me to the US.
"He then moved me to New York to continue with my career where I am now coached by a team which comprises Kwame Asante, Lawrence Carl Lokko and Daniel Oko Odamtten," he said.
Gunning for WBC world title
Mr Zwennes guarded Lawson to a vacant WBC International Silver Welterweight crown when they travelled back home in 2017 to earn a deserved majority decision victory over Sakima Mullings at the Bukom Boxing Arena in Accra.
Lawson went on to sign for Evander Holyfield’s Real Deal Sports and Entertainment in an exclusive promotional contract which was announced by their COO, Eric Bentley, and Fredrick’s manager, Jacob Zwennes, in 2017.
He had his first fight under the Real Deal Sports and Entertainment promotion when he retired Fidel Monterrosa Munoz in four rounds in November that year before winning unanimously against Baishanbo Nasiyiwula of China in April 2018 in the preliminary stage of the Jose Sulaiman WBC World Invitational Tournament.
He was due to square off with Van Heerden on August 24 in Toronto, Canada, but the organisers of the event, Real Deal Boxing and Lee Baxter Promotions, postponed the bout due to visa issues after some of the participating boxers were denied entry into Canada.
Announcing the decision to have the bout on a different date, Eric Bentley, COO of the Real Deal Boxing, explained that his outfit was forced to make that very difficult decision after learning that, despite their efforts, several of the tournament's international fighters would not be granted visas to enter Canada.
"We were forced to make the very difficult decision to postpone the event due to learning that, despite our best efforts, several of the tournament’s international fighters would not be granted visas to enter Canada.
“While we worked tirelessly to resolve the issue down to the last possible minute, and we could have made arrangements to move forward with revised tournament bouts, it was very important to us that the four semi-finalists, Van Heerden, Lawson, Solomon and Santana, did not lose the opportunity they rightfully earned by winning in the quarter-finals due to issues out of their control," he noted.
He continued: “We look forward to announcing the date and location of the rescheduled event in the coming weeks and we sincerely thank the boxing fans of Toronto for their support and their understanding of what was a necessary but very difficult decision for The Real Deal Boxing and our partners at Lee Baxter Promotions to make, especially considering the support the city has shown the event".
Keen on beating Van Heerden
With both Lawson and Van Heerden signed under the Real Deal Boxing and Entertainment and hailing from Africa, the Ghanaian said he had wished to face the South African at the final and described their meeting in the semi-finals as unfortunate.
Lawson, however, believes the intent of crashing anyone that stands his way at the tournament remains the same and is preparing feverishly to beat his opponent in order to land him a shot at the WBC welterweight strap.
"I wasn't expecting to meet Van Heerden in the semis but my target remains the same and anyone who comes my way must go down, and he is no exception.
"He is a great fighter but I know I will beat him to qualify to the final with the kind of training regimen I'm having under my trainers. It is going to be a win for me in our fight," Lawson assured.