As an historian of modern Africa, one of the real allures of boxing is that it is a truly global sport, one that draws on athletes from around the world, including the African continent. In recent years, my African home away from home, Namibia, has produced multiple world champions, and last night, Ghana built on its rich boxinig legacy with the upset win of Isaac Dogboe over the reigning WBO junior featherweight champion Jessie Magdaleno.
That's the thing about African boxers. Whenever they win a world title, it is almost always an upset. The reason is that to win a world championship, African fighters almost always have to travel abroad and win on someone else's home turf, often overcoming biased or disinterested judging in the process. Namibia's two most recent world champions, lightweight Paulus Moses and junior welterweight Julius Indongo claimed their crowns in Japan and Russia, respectively. Last night, Dogboe, who is now 19-0 with 13 knockouts, seized the title in Philadelphia, with an impressive technical knockout of Magdaleno in the 11th round. By the time the referee put a stop to the fight, Magdaleno had tasted the canvas three times and Dogboe was almost certainly ahead on the cards. (Through the first 10 rounds, I had Dogboe ahead 95-92).
It did not look good for the 23-year-old Ghanaian early on, as he was sent down with a counter left hook in the first round. That knockdown, the first of Dogboe's career, had come while Dogboe was being the aggressor, pushing Magdaleno up against the ropes with a wild fusillade of punches. It would not have been surprising if Dogboe had backed off after that painful lesson, but he continued to press forward, ripping vicious shots to Magdaleno's body and nearly knocking the formerly unbeaten American out in the fifth round. Although Magdaleno regained his wits well enough to perhaps steal one or two of the later rounds, Dogboe was able to corner him again in the 10th and 11th rounds, before finally finishing the fight.
In the post-fight interview, Dogboe praised the spirit of Azumah Nelson, the Hall of Fame boxer born in Accra, Ghana, who held the junior lightweight crown for six years from 1988-1994. The way Dogboe expressed it had me worried that I had perhaps missed the passing of Nelson, who is regarded by some as the greatest African boxer of all-time. Turns out, Nelson is still very much alive, and thanks to Dogboe, so is African boxing.
One more note: Though Magdaleno is considering moving up in weight classes, it would be good to see these two fight again. Magdaleno put up a real fight and had the advantage early on. He had not fought in just over one year, so I would like to see what he could do against Dogboe when the ring rust has been thoroughly scraped away.