Several speakers have touted the boxing credentials of former President Jerry John Rawlings, the first President of the Fourth Republic of Ghana a roundtable discussion on boxing.
Former Sports Minister, Enoch Teye Mensah, three-time world boxing champion and boxing hall of famer, Azumah Nelson, renowned promoter Samir Captan, boxer Joseph Agbeko and others, took turns to eulogise the late former President and describe into detail the significant impact he made on boxing.
The event was a roundtable discussion on boxing, organized by the J.J. Rawlings Foundation to mark the 75th birthday of the former President, on Wednesday June 22.
Under the theme ‘J.J. Rawlings’ Contribution to the Sport and the Way Forward’ speaker after speaker extolled the virtues of the former President and the personal dedication he gave to sports, boxing being a great beneficiary.
Samir Captan told the audience that though he did not relate directly with President Rawlings at the time, the presidency showed keen interest in his activities as an astute promoter who helped to lift the name of Ghana high.
He stated that the President motivated the boxing fraternity with his personal interest and attention and created an environment for the discipline to thrive.
Council of State member and former Sports Minister under President Rawlings, E. T. Mensah indicated that the former President ensured that he (the Minister) toured the boxing gyms and ensured that the boxers were receiving adequate training. The government also developed new gyms for the upcoming boxers to train in.
Azumah Nelson elicited prolonged applause when he disclosed how he used to call President before bouts to inform him he was heading into the ring. The President was almost always already seated by his television ready to watch Azumah annihilate his opponent.
In an address by the Executive Director of the J.J. Rawlings Foundation, Ms. Asantewaa Agyeman-Rawlings, she said the rationale behind the event was to recall the former President’s contributions to boxing and how it lifted up the image of the sport. The roundtable discussion was also to raise awareness on the significance boxing as a sport had made to the development of the mind and body of young men and women.
“We hope to utilise this gathering today to highlight some of the problems boxing and boxers are facing as well, and what practical solutions we can outline and how we can implement these solutions,” Ms. Agyeman-Rawlings stated.
Ms. Agyeman-Rawlings, who is the second daughter of the former President, said though President Rawlings was not selective in his support for boxing, he created an environment for the development of most sports disciplines. Ghana launched the Sports For All Campaign where every Ghanaian was encouraged to participate in one sport or another. His administration also developed the Dansoman Park with the support of Accra Brewery Limited; Kaneshie Sports Complex was also developed with a tennis court, a swimming pool and a football pitch.
Other notable names at the roundtable event included former Youth and Sports Minister, Nii Lante Vanderpuije, Mr. Oko Vanderpuije, Member of Parliament for Ablekuma South, former Ghana Football Association Chairman, Nana Sam Brew Butler, Sports and Business Consultant, Rex Danquah, Mr. Isaac Tetteh, Managing Director of TT Brothers, President of the Ghana Olympic Committee, Ben Nunoo Mensah, Eddie Duplan, former Chairman of the Ghana Amateur Boxing Association and Mr. Maurice Quansah, Editor of Graphic Sports.
Also present were Her Excellency Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings, Dr. Zanetor Agyeman-Rawlings, Member of Parliament for Klottey Korle, Ms. Amina Agyeman-Rawlings and Mr. Kimathi Agyeman-Rawlings.
Below please find attached the address by Ms. Asantewaa Agyeman-Rawlings of the J.J. Rawlings Foundation.
STATEMENT BY MS. ASANTEWAA AGYEMAN-RAWLINGS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE J.J. RAWLINGS FOUNDATION AT A ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION ON BOXING TO MARK THE 75THBIRTHDAY OF PRESIDENT JERRY JOHN RAWLINGS, WEDNESDAY JUNE 22, 2022
Her Excellency Nana Rawlings, Former First Lady of the Republic of Ghana
Honourable E.T. Mensah – Current member of the Council of State and Former Minister for Youth and Sports
Ambassador Amarkai Amarteifio – Former Minister for Youth and Sports and Former Ambassador
The Terrible Terror, Azumah Zoom Zoom Nelson,
Honourable Fritz Baffour – Former Minister for Information and Member of Parliament
Honourable Nii Lantey Vanderpuye – Former Minister for Youth and Sports and Current MP for Odododiodoo
Honourable Antwi Boasiako Sekyere - former Eastern Regional Minister
Honourable Oko Vanderpuije – Former Mayor of Greater Accra and Current Member of Parliament for Ablekuma South
Honourable Dr. Zanetor Rawlings – Member of Parliament for Klottey Korle
Nana Sam Brew Butler – Former Chairman of the Ghana Football Association
Mr. Ben Nunoo Mensah – President of Ghana Olympic Committee
Mr. Rexford Danquah – Sports and Business Consultant
Mr. Isaac Tetteh – Managing Director of TT Brothers
Mr. Maurice Quansah – Editor of Graphic Sports
Let me also acknowledge the presence of all the old and current boxers present. They include:
Ike Bazooka Quartey,
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen:
Today marks the 75th birthday of Jerry John Rawlings, First President of the Fourth Republic, who joined the ancestors on November 12, 2020.
President Rawlings’ legacy transcends politics to the area of sports where his personal affinity for sports development impacted positively on our nation’s sports acumen and lifted it significantly. His marriage to a gymnast and athlete -whom I dare say can probably still outrun us all in a race – undoubtedly contributed immensely to an aggressive push for sports to play a vital role in our communities. Without a doubt J.J. (dad) also loved sports and that influenced a lot of his actions and probably influenced his affections for a certain Nana Agyeman whose sporting prowess begun in primary school - in Ghana Internal School where she was the best 110 yards sprinter and high jumper. In GIS, She also exceled in swimming / rounders / netball / volleyball (just to mention a few) to continue in Achimota school and honed in the University of Science and technology where she represented her university in the West African University Games and Ghana University Sports where she won some medals. Like her husband – Nana understood the power of sports on the minds of especially young people and in her own dynamic way, embraced the sports policies of her husband’s administration and translated these at the grassroots level. (so that’s where all that energy came from).
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen:
The family and the J.J. Rawlings Foundation marks his 75th milestone with a get-together on sports and boxing-related personalities at a Roundtable Discussion on the theme; ‘J.J. Rawlings’ Contribution to the Sport and the Way Forward.’ The rationale is to recall his contributions to boxing and how it helped to lift up the image of the sport not only in Ghana, but globally. More importantly, this roundtable discussion is to raise awareness of the significance boxing as a sport has made to the development of the mind and body of young men; raise awareness to the contributions boxing makes to the nurturing of the warrior-mind set among our youth. We hope to utilise this gathering today to highlight some of the problems boxing and boxers are facing as well, and what practical solutions we can outline and how can we implement these solutions.
During President Rawlings’ tenure as Head of State and President of Ghana many boxers excelled significantly because he took a very personal interest in their progress. Famously amongst the list of achievers who created a name for Ghana is Azumah Nelson, whose exploits have won him recognition on the Boxing Hall of Fame.
Other significant names on the list include Nana Yaw Konadu, Alfred Kotey, Ike Bazooka Quartey and Michael Ebo Danquah.
As has been reported elsewhere, four of Ghana’s historic world championship titles in boxing were won during the tenure of J.J. Rawlings. And it was not a matter of sheer coincidence but his dedication and personal involvement in the development of some of these boxers that spurred them on to global success. The story of Jerry Rawlings and Azumah Nelson is legendary and the yo ke gari part of the story has become folklore.
Interestingly President Rawlings was not selective in his support for boxing and the success of that discipline during his tenure cannot be laid on a specific policy on boxing. Ghana launched the Sports For All Campaign where every Ghanaian was encouraged to participate in one sport or another. His administration developed the Dansoman Park with the support of Accra Brewery Limited; Kaneshie Sports Complex was also developed with a tennis court, a swimming pool and football pitch; and Ghana Black Stars won its fourth African Cup trophy in Libya after Ghana had initially decided to boycott the tourney.
President Rawlings’ commitment to sports meant that he appointed some of the best and most committed personalities to man the Sports Ministry. They included Zaya Yeebo, Amarkai Amarteifio, Ato Austin, Saarah Mensah and the famous Enoch Teye Mensah. These personnel all gave sports a high profile reputation. Let us not forget to celebrate the coaches whose hard work and perseverance are not really seen until the boxer steps into the ring of pure grit where all his training with his coach crescendos.
President Rawlings’ association with Azumah Nelson deserves special mention. It is important to note that Zoom Zoom Nelson is a Boxing Hall of Famer, three time world champion and indisputably Ghana’s greatest boxer.
The former World Champion recounts how Flt Lt Rawlings drafted him into the Ghana Army Boxing team so he could benefit from the stringent training, but discouraged him from joining the Ghana Army as he feared it will distract from his fierce desire to achieve in boxing.
“One day, I approached him and suggested to him that I wanted to join the army. He looked me in the face and said no. He told me the spirit in me is beyond the military so I should stick to boxing because that's where my greatness will come from. I heeded to his advice,” Azumah said about the young Air Force Officer, Jerry John Rawlings.
When Azumah realized later that it was Flt Lt Rawlings who was the leader of the uprising, this is what he had to say about him:
“To be honest I was least surprised. He was so selfless and didn't want people to be cheated. People can have other opinions about him but I got to know him from times he was unknown, and I always felt his desire."
Jerry Rawlings love for boxing meant he watched many boxing matches in Ghana including the famous Bukom Banku versus Aryitey Powers bout. He played host to the duo ahead of their fight and later sponsored them to the Brazil 2014 World Cup.
Richard Commey, Isaac Dogboe and Joseph Agbeko-the King - all took time to seek inspiration from President Rawlings even when he was out of office, prior to their fights and came back to him with stories of success.
Today we mark the birthday of an illustrious son of Ghana and celebrate the great role he played in Ghanaian boxing.