Frederick Lawson had it all. Clean-cut, athletic and a skillset that took Ghana boxing by storm.
Lawson was the country’s next fistic star. But that star didn’t shine bright for long.
Few saw it coming that windy night on November 7, 2015. An undefeated Lawson took on Canada’s Kevin Bizier in a Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) event in Miami, Florida. The winner would face then-IBF World Welterweight Champion, Kell Brook.
Lawson was a prohibitive favorite. But after 10 close rounds, he sat on his stool; a beaten fighter nursing a broken jaw while Bizier’s hand was raised in victory.
“I can say that my fight with Kevin Bizier really had a negative effect on my career, especially the way I lost,” Lawson told BoxingAfrica.com during a recent phone interview. “I should have won that fight. The pressure on me to win was intense and really affected my performance.”
The injury to his jaw sidelined Lawson for 16 months. When he returned, his performances got progressively worse.
On March 30, 2019, it all came crashing down when Lawson faced journeyman Juan Ruiz in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The bout was organized by Top Rank Promotions, who had recently signed Lawson in hopes of developing him to world title contention.
It wasn’t to be. Ruiz, a fringe contender at best, knocked him out in the fourth round.
Lawson has fought only once since, a six-round decision over Carlos Velasquez, who entered the ring with a 27-35 record. It’s a far cry from the fighter who arrived in the US with high hopes.
Lawson was first introduced to boxing at age 15 by a classmate who was an amateur boxer at the time. He fell in love with the sport, becoming a frequent truant so he could train at the Fit Square Gym at Kokomlemle in Accra.
There, he met the renowned Lartekwei Lartey, lead trainer at Fit Square and the man who would ultimately nurture him throughout his career in Ghana.
“He was naturally gifted when he decided to start training with me as a boxer,” Lartey told BoxingAfrica.com. “I taught Frederick how to box and ensured he was featured on the national amateur team.”
At Fit Square, Lawson trained alongside accomplished fighters like former world bantamweight champion Joseph Agbeko. That foundation, coupled with his natural athleticism, made him an early bet to become a future champion.
In March 2011, Lawson turned pro at 22. Fighting out of Ghana under Lartey’s tutelage—and with the help of his then-manager, Alhaji Inusah Sally—he won his first 21 bouts with ease.
Lawson was gaining prominence. But he hungered for more. In 2013, he flew to the Philippines to train alongside Manny Pacquiao. He did so without informing his handlers. According to Lartey, Alex Ntiamoah of Box Office Sports Promotions helped Lawson to make the move.
However, Ntiamoah recounts his own version of the events.
“I spoke to Alhaji Inusah, who was Fredrick’s manager, about Manny Pacquiao wanting Freddie as a sparring partner, but [Inusah] disagreed,” said Ntiamoah. “The deal came through Mike Altamura, an Australian matchmaker. Pacquiao wanted Freddie as his sparring partner ahead of his comeback fight with Brandon Rios in 2013.
“I decided to opt out of the deal because Alhaji Inusah refused. But Freddie was already in contact with Pacquiao’s people and made the trip.”
Lawson has mixed feelings about what occurred.
“Looking back, my decision to go to the Philippines without the endorsement of Alhaji Inusah wasn’t good,” Lawson said. “I should have listened to him when he advised me to stay in Ghana and build my career. But I was young and I didn’t want to miss an opportunity to train and possibly sign a contract with a legend in Manny Pacquiao.”
The deal Lawson hoped for never materialized.
“I felt so bad when I realized he had traveled to Philippines without our knowledge,” said Lartey. “It was very sad how he connived with other managers and promoters to make that trip but unfortunately for him things didn’t go as planned and he returned home.”
Coming to America
Lawson didn’t remain in Ghana for long. In 2014, he went against the wishes of team again, relocating to the US after securing a visa with the help of US-based Ghanaian Jacob Zwennes, CEO of Errol Hawk Management.
“I don’t have anything against [Lawson], but I was surprised at the way and manner in which he disappeared without my knowledge,” Alhaji Inusah Sally informed BoxingAfrica.com.
Lawson says there is more to the story.
“When I returned from the Philippines, Alhaji Inusah didn’t want to work with me anymore for disrespecting him,” said the boxer. “So I turned to Jacob Zwennes, who took me to the US.”
Calls and messages to Zwennes for this article were not returned. Lartey says he was blindsided by the move as well. Although Sally says Lawson failed to honor contractual obligations, the businessman decided to release him.
“I don’t have a problem with Coach Lartey,” Lawson said. “And Alhaji Inusah forgave me for what I did but we are not really on talking terms even though he asked me to contact him whenever I want to.”
Lawson’s foray into US boxing netted little success. His ascent was halted by the loss to Bizier. No matter the trainer, from Abel Sanchez to Kwame Asante, he regressed in subsequent bouts. Then came the shocking 2019 defeat at the hands of Ruiz.
“It baffles my mind how he still hasn’t made a mark since moving to the US but I think career choices was the course,” said Sally. “He wasn’t loyal to us who helped him when he was coming up and I won’t be surprised if that has been one of the reasons for his failure to reach higher heights.”
Naturally, Lartey agrees with the Alhaji’s assertion.
“I am sure karma has caught up with him for treating us this way after all the sacrifices we made for him,” he said.
Others believe Lawson’s problems extend beyond that.
“Freddie hasn’t always dedicated himself to boxing,” said one source with knowledge of the situation. “He has a lot of bad habits outside boxing and he didn’t take his training serious enough. He thought his natural talent would get him by, but in this business, if you are not serious, you will be exposed.”
Lawson is soldiering on. He was scheduled to fight Canada’s Mikael Zewski on March 28. That, and all other bouts, have been postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Once a promising prospect, Lawson is now 30-years-old.
“I nearly gave up boxing after my defeat to Ruiz,” Lawson admitted. “I wouldn’t be surprised if people refer to me as a journeyman because of the way things turned out. But I’m encouraged to come back stronger.”
Time, of course, waits for no man. Yet Lawson continues to push with hopes of realizing his world championship aspirations. How the story ends, fittingly, rests in his hands.