Boxing in Ghana

Posted October 19th, 2012 at 5:29 pm (UTC-4)
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Azumah Nelson

Ghana has produced some of Africa’s greatest boxers, including former world champions Azumah “The Professor” Nelson, Ike “Bazooka” Quartey and Joseph “King Kong” Agbeko. The 54-year-old Nelson, who had his last professional fight in 2008, is regarded as the patriarch of Ghana boxing. The former WBC featherweight and super featherweight champion learned to box in the capital, Accra, which is still a hotbed for up-and-coming Ghanaian fighters.

There are about 16 boxing gyms in Accra’s central neighborhoods of Jamestown and Bukom. It’s where boys as young as five get their start in “the sweet science.” Most of the gyms, as you can see in this punchy video package, are Spartan and have basic equipment like wooden planks and old metal chair frames.

I mention in the video how young Ghanaian fighters are now following in the footsteps of Azumah Nelson, hoping to fulfill their own boxing dreams.

Sonny and Barry Maughan

I remember how 20 years ago, my longtime Voice of America colleague Barry Maughan followed Nelson’s footsteps to Melbourne, Australia, where The Professor turned in one of his greatest performances. Barry was ringside when Nelson fought longtime Australian rival Jeff Fenech in front of a wildly partisan Aussie crowd at Princes Park in Melbourne. The Ghanaian warrior stopped Fenech with an 8th round TKO to retain his WBC super featherweight title.

It’s tough for champion fighters to hang up their gloves for good, though, and this was proven 16 years later when Nelson and Fenech, both well past their prime, met in a rematch in Melbourne, where Fenech won a majority decision.

Azumah Nelson’s legacy, though, is not that 2008 loss to Fenech. It’s the smile and world title belt slung over his left shoulder at the top of this page.  The ring success by Nelson, Quartey and Agbeko continues to inspire a new generation of Ghanaian fighters.

Sonny Young
Since 1999, host Sonny Young has delighted listeners and viewers with a lively presentation that combines humor, props, sound effects and correspondent reports from Africa and all over the globe.

Cape Verde’s Blue Sharks in Uncharted African Football Waters

Posted October 17th, 2012 at 11:27 am (UTC-4)
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The Blue Sharks from the Cape Verde Islands used to be known as one of the minnows in African football. Ten years ago, Cape Verde was rated one of the weakest African teams by FIFA, world football’s governing body. In October 2002, FIFA had the Blue Sharks ranked 41st out of 52 African teams, and 155 overall. But thanks to an ambitious program to find top talent with ties to the small, Portuguese-speaking island archipelago, Cape Verde has made dramatic strides over the past decade.

In this month’s FIFA rankings, Cape Verde is ranked 10th among African teams, and 51st overall. The Blue Sharks recently eliminated four-time champion Cameroon, 3-2 on aggregate over two legs, in one of the biggest upsets in African Nations Cup qualifying history. As a result, Cape Verde is headed to South Africa in January to make its first ever appearance in African football’s premier event. With a population of 500,000, Cape Verde will also become the smallest country to compete at the Nations Cup finals.

In an interview with Reuters, Cape Verde’s head coach Lucio Antunes said, “We now have about 90% of our squad members who are playing at clubs in Europe, in Portugal, France, Spain, Holland and other countries. These are professional players who are desperate to show what they can do at the Nations Cup finals.”

Ryan Mendes

Ryan Mendes is one of the Europe-based professionals who has shown what he can do during the Nations Cup qualifying campaign. The 22-year-old striker, who plays for Lille in the French league, has led the attack for the Blue Sharks with three goals, tying him with eight other players as top goalscorer in 2013 Nations Cup qualifying. Mendes has played for Cape Verde at the U-16 and U-21 youth levels. The Blue Sharks also feature several other young players, with most based in Portugal, the country Cape Verde won independence from in 1975.

 

 

Sonny Young
Since 1999, host Sonny Young has delighted listeners and viewers with a lively presentation that combines humor, props, sound effects and correspondent reports from Africa and all over the globe.

Soccer Surge Towards South Africa 2013

Posted October 9th, 2012 at 3:44 pm (UTC-4)
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The final soccer surge towards South Africa 2013 takes place this coming weekend when the last 15 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying matches are played across the continent. From Calabar to Kampala, from Luanda to Lilongwe, from Malabo to Marrakech, teams are vying for a place in Africa’s premier football tournament, which kicks off January 19th.

The winners of the 15 home-and-away ties will join South Africa, which earned an automatic berth as host of the African football jamboree.

Zambian players celebrate their Nations Cup championship in February.

In Kampala, African champion Zambia faces a dicey encounter against host Uganda. The Chipolopolo of Zambia, only eight months removed from their first African title, will try to protect a 1-0 advantage from the first leg last month. African football analyst David Legge says this should be a tense and exciting match, and his hunch is Zambia will go through to defend its trophy in South Africa.

Dieumerci Mbokani of the Democratic Republic of Congo is one of the joint top scorers in 2013 Nations Cup qualifying with three goals. Mbokani is currently based in Belgium with the club Anderlecht.

Legge says Mali and the Democratic Republic of Congo are “the bankers” to advance to South Africa 2013. Both teams have big leads going into their road matches. Mali is up 3-0 against Botswana, which made its Nations Cup debut earlier this year. The DRC, meanwhile, has a commanding 4-0 advantage against 2012 Nations Cup co-host Equatorial Guinea.

In Ouagadougou, 1998 Nations Cup host Burkina Faso is at home against Central African Republic. Legge reserves special praise for CAR, which has a 1-0 lead as it aims for its first Nations Cup appearance. He says Central African Republic pulled off one of the greatest upsets in Nations Cup qualifying when it eliminated seven-time African champion Egypt (4-3 on aggregate) in the first round. Legge says CAR has “a 50-50 chance” of making it to South Africa in January.

 

 

Sonny Young
Since 1999, host Sonny Young has delighted listeners and viewers with a lively presentation that combines humor, props, sound effects and correspondent reports from Africa and all over the globe.

Makau Aims For New Marathon Mark In Germany

Posted October 4th, 2012 at 5:07 pm (UTC-4)
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Marathon world record holder Patrick Makau.

A little more than one year ago, I wrote how Patrick Makau had reason to smile after he set a new marathon world record, clocking 2:03:38 in Berlin, Germany. While the Kenyan is still the world record holder, his spirit and confidence have been tested in 2012, a year that so far has been marked more by disappointment than success.

In April, the 27-year-old Makau dropped out of the London Marathon at about the halfway mark with a hamstring problem. Just a few days later, Kenya announced its

Makau during his world record run in Berlin in 2011.

Olympic marathon team, and Makau, to the surprise of many, was not included. His performance in the London Marathon probably cost him a shot at competing again in the British capital during the Olympics. Had Makau won the race or finished among the top-three, I think he would have run at the Olympics.

Patrick Makau shows off his world record time during a promotional appearance in Frankfurt.

Makau now has his sights set on a return trip to Germany, where he will run the BMW Frankfurt Marathon October 28th. Like Berlin, the Frankfurt course is flat and fast, and Makau would like nothing better than to lower his world record. Last year in Frankfurt, 2012 Olympic bronze medalist Wilson Kipsang came within four seconds of Makau’s mark, setting a course record of 2:03:42.

Makau says his training for Frankfurt has gone well, and he’s been inspired recently by fellow-Kenyan Geoffrey Mutai. He says he watched on television when Mutai ran the year’s fastest time of 2:04:15 in winning the Berlin Marathon September 30th. “Having seen the Berlin race,” says Makau, “this has motivated me for Frankfurt.”

 

 

 

Sonny Young
Since 1999, host Sonny Young has delighted listeners and viewers with a lively presentation that combines humor, props, sound effects and correspondent reports from Africa and all over the globe.

Kamara Gets His Kicks For Kansas City And Sierra Leone

Posted September 23rd, 2012 at 7:47 pm (UTC-4)
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Kei Kamara

The top African goalscorer in Major League Soccer this season is Kei Kamara, a 28-year-old striker from Sierra Leone who in 29 matches has scored 11 goals for Sporting Kansas City. With Kamara leading the attack, Kansas City currently leads the Eastern Conference in MLS and is a top contender for the trophy in the upcoming league playoffs.

Kamara was born and raised in Kenema, Sierra Leone’s third largest city, and he traveled to the United States as a teenager to escape the civil war in his homeland. He eventually settled with relatives in the Los Angeles area. Kamara’s turbulent childhood and dangerous journey is the subject of a documentary, titled simply “Kei.”

The documentary also takes a look at Kamara’s return to Sierra Leone for an African Nations Cup qualifying match. He scored his first two international goals for Sierra Leone’s national team, nicknamed The Leone Stars, in a 4-2 victory over Sao Tome and Principe in a 2013 Nations Cup qualifier on June 16th, 2012.

Kamara says soccer is worshiped in Sierra Leone, a country that’s bidding for its third appearance in the Africa Cup of Nations, the continent’s premier football tournament. Earlier this month, Sierra Leone drew 2-2 with visiting Tunisia in Freetown. The teams will meet again October 13th in Tunisia, with the winner of the two match series advancing to the 2013 Nations Cup in South Africa.

Meanwhile, in Kansas City, Kamara has become a big fan favorite for his goal celebrations and also for his humanitarian work. Last year, he was named the 2011 Sporting Kansas City Humanitarian of the Year, an award voted on by media, coaches and fellow players. Kamara has supported Schools for Salone, a charity that is helping to rebuild schools in Sierra Leone, as well as Right to Play, an organization that uses sports and games to improve the lives of children in Africa and around the world.

Sonny Young
Since 1999, host Sonny Young has delighted listeners and viewers with a lively presentation that combines humor, props, sound effects and correspondent reports from Africa and all over the globe.

Still Lucky, Still Unbeaten: Nigerian Prizefighter Omotoso

Posted September 17th, 2012 at 2:03 pm (UTC-4)
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Wale “Lucky Boy” Omotoso
Photo courtesy Top Rank

Unbeaten Nigerian prizefighter Wale “Lucky Boy” Omotoso is moving closer to a world title shot after defeating Puerto Rico’s Daniel Sostre over the weekend in a welterweight bout in Las Vegas, Nevada. Fighting at the Thomas and Mack Center, an arena located on the campus of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Lucky Boy (23-0, 19 KOs) dominated the action, with the three judges scoring it 80-72, 79-73 and 79-73, all in favor of Omotoso.

Omotoso’s rise in the rankings is being watched and guided by Freddie Roach, the Hall of Fame trainer who runs the Wild Card Boxing Club in

It’s not a stretch to say Wale “Lucky Boy” Omotoso is one of pro boxing’s top welterweights. Photo courtesy Top Rank.

Hollywood, California. The Nigerian fighter says he’s lucky to have Roach as his trainer, and he’s lucky to be based in the Los Angeles area after a challenging, violent and dangerous childhood in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital. Omotoso says he learned to fight as a member of a street gang in Lagos. He says as a boy he saw people shot and he learned to run zigzag to avoid bullets.

Omotoso fought his first 18 pro bouts in Australia and then he moved to the United States, where he signed with Top Rank Boxing, a company that has promoted some of the sport’s greatest fighters, including Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard and Manny Pacquiao. With a little luck, Top Rank might have another world champion soon in Wale “Lucky Boy” Omotoso.

Sonny Young
Since 1999, host Sonny Young has delighted listeners and viewers with a lively presentation that combines humor, props, sound effects and correspondent reports from Africa and all over the globe.

2013 African Nations Cup Qualifying

Posted September 5th, 2012 at 10:26 am (UTC-4)
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African football fans are looking forward to a big weekend of qualifying matches for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations tournament in South Africa. The final qualifying round features 15 home-and-away series. The 15 winners, to be determined by total goals in the two games, will join host South Africa at African football’s premier event.

One of the marquee match-ups this coming weekend will be in Abidjan, where The Elephants of Ivory Coast will host The Lions of Teranga from Senegal. African football analyst David Legge describes this qualifying series as worthy of a Nations Cup final.

Team captain Didier Drogba is the all-time top scorer for Ivory Coast.

The Elephants, Africa’s highest-ranked team, are led by veteran striker Didier Drogba, who recently moved from Chelsea in England’s Premier League to Shanghai Shenhua in the Chinese Super League.

Ivory Coast, the 1992 Nations Cup champion, reached the final of this year’s competition, losing (8-7) to underdog Zambia in a dramatic penalty kick shootout in Libreville, Gabon. Senegal, meanwhile, is hoping to bounce back after a very disappointing 2012 Nations Cup campaign. The Senegalese lost all three of their group matches and left the tournament as perhaps the most embarrassed team.

Zambians are very proud of their team, The Chipolopolo, for lifting the Nations Cup trophy for the first time in Libreville. To get to South Africa and defend their title, the Zambians will have to beat The Cranes of Uganda, who last competed in the Nations Cup tournament in 1978.

Zambian football great Kalusha Bwalya

Football Association of Zambia president Kalusha Bwalya is not looking past the Ugandans, though, and he says they’ll provide a tough test. This series will kick off Saturday in Zambia’s Copperbelt city of Ndola, near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo. The return match is scheduled for mid-October in Uganda.

The 2013 Nations Cup tournament will begin January 19th and goes through February 10th. Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg will stage the opening match and the final. Soccer City was also the venue for the 2010 FIFA World Cup final, in which Spain defeated the Netherlands, 1-0, in extra time.

 

 

 

Sonny Young
Since 1999, host Sonny Young has delighted listeners and viewers with a lively presentation that combines humor, props, sound effects and correspondent reports from Africa and all over the globe.

Algerian Olympian Makhloufi Bounces Back

Posted August 8th, 2012 at 4:13 am (UTC-4)
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Taoufik Makhloufi
AP photo

Algeria’s Taoufik Makhloufi won the gold medal in the 1500 meters Tuesday night in what’s being described as one of the most remarkable recoveries at the London Olympics. The 24-year-old Makhloufi won his country’s first medal at the Games only 24 hours after being disqualified from the Olympics and then reinstated.

“It’s the will of God. Yesterday I was out, today I’m in,” said Makhloufi, after breaking away from the field and winning in 3:34.08. “This is a gift for the Algerian people and for the whole of the Arabic world.”

Olympic champion Taoufik Makhloufi
AP photo

He was given a second chance after the IAAF, track and field’s world governing body, expelled him from the Olympics for “not making a bona fide effort” during an 800 meter heat. He jogged and walked the first 300 meters of the 800 meter heat and then stepped off the track. The Algerian athlete, though, was able to produce medical evidence and he was cleared to compete in the 1500 meters.

The Makhloufi saga followed the disqualification of eight badminton players last week from the Olympics for not trying in their matches, in order to get a more favorable draw in the later rounds.

Makhloufi is also the reigning African champion at 800 meters. He is the first Algerian to win Olympic gold in the two lap race since Noureddine Morceli at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

 

 

Sonny Young
Since 1999, host Sonny Young has delighted listeners and viewers with a lively presentation that combines humor, props, sound effects and correspondent reports from Africa and all over the globe.

Ethiopia’s Tiki Gelana Wins Olympic Women’s Marathon

Posted August 5th, 2012 at 10:44 am (UTC-4)
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A pack of Olympic marathon runners on the Mall, early in Sunday’s race.

London’s iconic landmarks and quickly changing weather were both on display in Sunday’s Olympic women’s marathon, which was won by Ethiopia’s Tiki Gelana in an Olympic record 2:23:07. The field of 118 runners started the race in a light rain. After about an hour of competition, the sun appeared and steam rose off the streets, lined four and five deep with cheering spectators. By the time the 24-year-old Ethiopian hit the tape, more rain was falling, but that didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the fans or Tiki Gelana, who grabbed an Ethiopian flag and did a ceremonial victory lap.

Kenyan and Ethiopian runners, including newly crowned Olympic champion Tiki Gelana.

Kenya’s Priscah Jeptoo won the silver medal (in 2:23:12), while Russia’s Tatyana Petrova Arkhipova won the bronze (in a personal best 2:23:29). Usually, the men’s and women’s Olympic marathons finish inside the main Olympic Stadium. But organizers broke with tradition and mapped a four loop course that took the runners past many of London’s notable tourist attractions. The race started and finished on the Mall, not far from Buckingham Palace.

Your trusty Olympic blogger was impressed with the huge crowds that turned out under less than ideal conditions. One of the athletes they cheered for was Romania’s Constantina Dita, the defending Olympic champion, who struggled Sunday and finished 86th overall, in 2:41:34, almost 15 minutes slower than her gold medal-winning time in Beijing four years ago.

Shalane Flanagan of the USA, who finished 10th overall in 2:25:51.

The men’s Olympic marathon will be held on the same course August 12th, the final day of Olympic competition.

The Kenyan Olympic team held a moment of silence before coming to London for the late Sammy Wanjiru, the 2008 Olympic marathon champion who died last year at age 24 after falling off a balcony at his home.

While Kenya has produced many of the world’s greatest marathoners, Sunday’s victory by Tiki Gelana means a Kenyan woman still has not won an Olympic marathon title.

Sonny Young
Since 1999, host Sonny Young has delighted listeners and viewers with a lively presentation that combines humor, props, sound effects and correspondent reports from Africa and all over the globe.

Young Olympians From Malawi and Seychelles Make Splash

Posted August 1st, 2012 at 6:01 am (UTC-4)
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Aurelie Fanchette
Official London Olympics website photo

Two of the youngest Olympians here in London are swimmers from Malawi and the Seychelles. Joyce Tafatatha and Aurelie Fanchette, both 14, are delighted to be competing in their first Olympic Games. Fanchette swam Monday (July 30) in the women’s 200 meters freestyle heats. Even though her time (2:23.49) was almost 30 seconds slower than that of newly crowned Olympic champion Allison Schmitt of the USA (1:53.61), it was a personal best, and the crowd cheered in support of the Seychelles teenager when she touched the wall.

“Inspire a generation” is the official slogan of the London Olympics, and Fanchette says she hopes she can encourage younger athletes in the Seychelles with her performance. She received a wild card entry to compete in London, and in her words, “I really want to come back at the next Olympics in Rio, and hopefully I will try to qualify for them, rather than just get invited.”

Malawian Olympian Joyce Tafatatha

Meanwhile, Malawian teenager Joyce Tafatatha will swim Friday (August 3) in the heats for the women’s 50 meter freestyle. She says American star Michael Phelps is one of her swimming heroes, and like Fanchette, she hopes she can inspire younger Malawians by competing in London.

Even though they will not go home with an Olympic medal, Tafatatha and Fanchette say rubbing shoulders with the likes of Phelps and other Olympic stars in the Athletes’ Village has given them some thrilling lifetime memories and motivation to train harder in the future.

Sonny Young
Since 1999, host Sonny Young has delighted listeners and viewers with a lively presentation that combines humor, props, sound effects and correspondent reports from Africa and all over the globe.

About

Sonny Side of Sports is an energetic and action-packed look at both world and African sports, broadcast on radio, TV and the Internet. Since the show’s creation in 1999, host Sonny Young has delighted listeners and viewers with a lively presentation that combines humor, props, sound effects and correspondent reports from Africa and all over the globe.

The Sonny Side of Sports is broadcast Monday through Friday at 1630 and 1830 UTC/GMT. And on Fridays at 1730 UTC/GMT, Sonny has an expanded 30-minute sports show.

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