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A different kind of family – Why a slum in Ghana is home to the worlds’ boxing elite

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(Photo: Boxer Abraham Osei Bonsu, winner of a Ghanaian super featherweight title during training at “Bukom Boxing Gym” In Accra, Ghana on October 3rd, 2017)

A photo reportage by Ray Demski – all Photos © Ray Demski, raydemski.com

Located on the outskirts of Ghanas’ capital, Bukom is another slum not known to Google-Maps. It smells of burning waste and dirt, but unlike similar places this odor here mixes with sweat that arises from the boxing rings. „You learn to fight before you learn to walk“ is the maxim. In Bukom, boxing is more than just a sport, it´s the glue that holds everything together.

“From our childhood on fighting is part of our lives. So when we saw Azumah Nelson or other guys boxing, we started doing boxing too and it looks like fighting is in our genes, it flows in our veins.” Charles Quartey, Head Coach at Charles Quartey Boxing Foundation.

„You learn to fight before you learn to walk“ – this is how boxing journalist Sammy Heywood describes the maxim of his hometown Bukom. Located on the outskirts of Ghanas’ capital Accra, Bukom is another slum not known to Google-Maps. Between the labyrinth of shacks with tin roofs, people here live crowded together. It smells of burning waste and dirt, but unlike similar places this odor mixes with sweat that arises from the boxing rings. In Bukom, boxing is more than just a sport, it´s the glue that holds everything together.

Boxing metropoles from London to L.A. speak of Bukom with almost mystic reverence – D.K. Poison, Azumah Nelson, Nana Yaw Konadu, Ike Quartey, Alfred Kotey, Joseph Agbeko – are legends among fighters, their names synonyms for those who came from the bottom and fought themselves to the top.

Bukom doesn’t make great fighters, it builds unlikely families that raise them. Most of the fighters are young, many of them homeless. They sleep and eat where they train. The boxing club becomes home, the fellow fighters family and the coach a parental-figure. Everyone who sheds sweat here shares dreams, purpose and support. In roofless gyms and roadside sparring sessions the road to greatness is a communal cause, passed with care and passion from generation to generation.

The recipe to gain World fame is simple “Ghanian boxers don´t fight for money, they fight for fame, they want to get somewhere, in their lifes. We are very strong, we make sure that whatever we do, we do it with our whole heart!” Steven Ashie, (Ghana Boxing Supporters Union)

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A road side training fight exposes talent to the critical look of the Bukom boxing community.
Fans of local hero “Bukom Banku” have run long distances to be there.

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Boxer Braimah Kamoko, aka “Bukom Banku” (right) sparring with George Ashie aka “Red Tiger” at “Wadada Boxing Gym” in preparation for Kamoko´s fight with Bastie Samir.

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Boxer Wahab Oluwaseun (Nigeria) training at “Charles Quartey Boxing Foundation” Accra, Ghana.

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Ernest Amuzu (left) and Richard Amefu training in-fighting with the support of their coaches. The coaches do not allow the boxers to back down keeping the pressure on their in-fighting game.

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Young up and coming boxer Emmanuel Fofo Mawuli trains along with the adults and current champions, he lands a punch on the defense of Atu Rickets.

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From left – Boxers Richard Amefu and Atu Ricketts sparring during training at “Charles Quartey Boxing Foundation”, in Accra, Ghana, on September 29th, 2017.


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