When David “Poison” Kotei won the WBC world featherweight title in 1976, he not only became Ghana’s first world champion, he opened the door for many of his kinsmen to follow.
Azumah Nelson, Nana Yaw Konadu, Ike Quartey, Joshua Clottey, Joseph Agbeko, Isaac Dogboe and Richard Commey all captured major world titles fighting under the nation’s flag.
Aside from these notable names, others made their mark abroad – skilled warriors such as Floyd Klutei Robertson, Alex Kotey, Ben Tackie and more.
Yet as many great fighters as Ghana has produced, even more fell by the wayside. Some were victims of the sport’s politics, others of their own bad habits.
So who were the best of these also-rans? BoxingAfrica.com examines the top five Ghana boxers to have fallen short of world recognition:
5. JOSHUA OKINE
Record: 29-7-1, 17 KOs
Like many boxers from Ghana, Joshua Okine came from a fishing background. Yet he chose boxing as a means of fleeing from poverty-stricken Bukom in Accra.
Nicknamed “Bukom Tsatsu,” Okine had a difficult start to his pro career, losing his debut and several notable bouts abroad. All of that changed in 2011, when, at 31, he defeated South Africa’s Sikhulule Sidzumo for the vacant IBF Inter-Continental middleweight belt.
Inching closer to world title contention, Okine would win his next five bouts in convincing fashion before relocating to the US.
However, in May 2015, Okine returned to the ring a seemingly different fighter. Perhaps his advanced age took a toll. He was stopped in three rounds by Marco Antonio Periban in Periban’s native Mexico. Okine would lose his next two bouts against Demond Nicolson and Christopher Pearson.
In October 2016, he returned to Ghana and, at age 36, defeated John Amuzu via unanimous decision. He hasn’t fought since.
“Bukom Tsatsu failed to get fights when he relocated to US because he didn’t have the right men around him to push him,” said Peter Zwennes, President of the Ghana Boxing Authority (GBA).
“Sometimes you need the backing of your country to attain those heights but that never happened.”
4. JAMES ARMAH
Record: 20-4, 11 KOs
James Armah was another fighter from Bukom who ventured into boxing in search of a better life—and to avoid being bullied by his peers.
A 20-year-old Armah made his professional debut with a TKO victory over Zibra Atanga in 1996. He would go on to win his next three fights before securing the African title in 1997 against Augustine Sia.
From 1997 to 2000, Armah worked his way up to win the vacant Commonwealth super featherweight title against Charles Shepherd and successfully defended it against Bobby Vanzie.
Armah won seven of his next eight bouts. In 2012, he had the chance to win the WBO Asia Pacific super lightweight title but suffered an eight-round knockout to Chad Bennett despite leading on two of the judge’s cards.
Armah returned to Ghana that same year and stopped Charles Tetteh in two rounds. The win set up a rematch versus Bennett, but he fell short again.
In May 2013, Armah was dispatched in one round by Australia’s Leonardo Zappavigna. His last fight was in October 2016.
“James Armah was an all-round fighter who after winning the Commonwealth title caught the attention of many boxing enthusiasts in Ghana,” said trainer Lartekwei Lartey, who was close to the Armah camp.
“His inability to get the right nurturing in the US ended his bright career. He was moving from one coach to the other and that affected him.”
3. DAVID ODOI TETTEH
Record: 20-2, 15 KOs
David Tetteh was regarded as one of the best lightweights to have emerged from Ghana. He earned the moniker “Gbese Tyson” or “Little Tyson” by registering 13 KOs in his first 15 bouts.
Tetteh won the national title and then knocked out compatriot Douglas Odame in Lusaka, Zambia to annex the vacant African lightweight title.
In 1995, he fought four times, snatching the Commonwealth title from Billy Schwer in the United Kingdom via 12th-round TKO.
Tetteh was riding high until October 11, 1996, when he met Schwer again—this time in Schwer’s native Canada.
Tetteh was the victim of some home cooking as Schwer snatched the Commonwealth title back via controversial majority decision.
But he wouldn’t hold the belt for long. Tetteh and Irwin met for a rubber match in March 1997. This time, Tetteh walked away with a unanimous decision win.
After a points win over Ossie Duran in 1998 to retain his crown, Tetteh challenged Harold Warren in 1999 for the WBO NABO lightweight title in what was a big step-up for the Ghanaian. However, he fell short via another disputed outcome, this time by split decision.
Tetteh would go on to win his next three fights while fighting abroad. He hasn’t fought since knocking out Victor Hugo Paz in April 2000.
“I believe he could have achieved something great if he had stayed at home to fight from here,” said Alhaji Muritela Torfik, Board member of the GBA.
“He was an example of bad career decisions and lack of good promoters and managers,” Torfik continued, citing the debatable decision losses Tetteh suffered. “I believe he could have annexed a world title with patience.”
2. MICHAEL EBO DANQUAH
Record: 15-9-2, 10 KOs
Ebo Danquah was part of an elite group of Ghanaian boxers in the 1980’s which included Azumah Nelson and Nana Yaw Konadu.
Danquah was inspired by Nelson, who grew up in the same neighborhood. He quit secondary education after two years, exchanging the pen and books for gloves and heavy bags at the famous Akotoku Academy, under legendary trainer Attuquaye Clottey.
Danquah began his professional career in 1985 and, in only his second bout, fought to a draw with future world champion Nana Yaw Konadu, who was 1-0 at the time.
In May 1987, Danquah stopped James Njorage in five rounds to win the African and Commonwealth titles. That September, he won a 12-round unanimous decision over Little Baguio to claim the WBC International flyweight title.
Danquah successfully defended it versus Italy’s Giampiero Pinna in July 1988 but suffered his first loss in their rematch that October, which Pinna won on points.
The loss appeared to damage Danquah mentally more so than it did in the ring. Rumors abound regarding lax training habits. He won only two of his next 10 bouts before hanging up the gloves in 1996.
“You always need to be focused as a boxer,” Zwennes pointed out. “I know wherever [Danquah] is, he has regrets at the way things turned out for him.
“I watched him several times and he was a very good fighter but talent alone can’t make you great.”
1. RAYMOND NARH
Record: 26-6, 21 KOs
Ray Narh is arguably the greatest fighter from Ghana to have never broken through on the world stage. Narh fell short of becoming a contender, leaving many to wonder what happened.
Narh’s splendid amateur record caused renowned Ghanaian boxing referee and judge, Ataa Eddie Pappoe, to describe him as Ghana’s best boxer. He became the first Ghanaian since Azumah Nelson to win gold at the Commonwealth Games, ending the 20-year dry spell with a win in 1998 in Malaysia.
Narh also represented Ghana at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia, where he ultimately lost to silver medalist and future WBA world light welterweight champion, Andriy Kotelnik.
His pro career kicked off with a bang as he won his first 10 bouts, nine by KO. In 2004, with the help of his then-manager, Narh relocated to the US. in 2004. On June 5, 2004, he took on the hard-hitting Almazbek Raiymkulov, better known as “Kid Diamond,” at MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Raiymkulov was 15-0 at the time. It was a battle between unbeaten prospects looking to graduate to contender.
Or at least it was supposed to be.
Raiymkulov needed only one round to blast Narh out. It was a devastating loss but Narh bounced back to win 15 in a row, albeit against limited opposition.
The win streak helped him land a promotional contract with Roy Jones Jr. Boxing Company in 2009, an outfit founded by the legendary fighter of the same name.
But the next time Narh stepped up in competition, he did the unthinkable.
On May 7, 2011, he took on then-undefeated Mike Alvarado. A win might have meant a world title shot. Narh fought well initially, boxing from the outside. Alvarado stepped it up in the third wobbling Narh while applying pressure.
And then, in between rounds, Narh, inexplicably, quit on his stool. He wasn’t taking a bad beating, nor had he been dropped. The decision is one that would haunt him the rest of his career. He would lose five of his last seven bouts.
“Raymond Narh was one of the best fighters in Ghana with a bright future before his move to the US destroyed him,” said Torfik. “He was a puncher who could cause problems to any fighter at the time and I think he has himself to blame.”