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Duke Micah fighting to be the next star from Ghana’s ‘champion factory’

Photo by Jim Fenwick
08
Jun

NEW YORK — It’s a tough time to be a bantamweight contender, with boxing’s boogymen Naoya Inoue and Zolani Tete controlling half of the division’s major titles. Duke Micah, a Ghanaian Olympian who is unbeaten as a pro, views the title hunt as a mandate to fight anyone and everyone in his weight class, regardless of reputation.

“I’ve been to the world level before and I’m not afraid of anybody,” said the 26-year-old Micah (21-0, 18 knockouts), who faces Thomas Snow (19-3, 12 KOs) this Saturday at Kings Theatre in Brooklyn, New York.

“I’m doing boxing to become somebody, not to hide from anyone. If you are afraid of fights, why are you fighting? You have to quit. I’m there to face everybody — that makes you a champion.”

That pugnacious mentality served Micah well when he first discovered a passion for fighting. He grew up in the Bukom section of Accra, Ghana — the same neighborhood which produced champions like Azumah Nelson, Ike Quartey, and Joshua Clottey — living with his grandmother and aunts after his parents split when he was young.

Bukom was described in a 2016 BBC feature as “Ghana’s champion boxer factory,” and it was this tradition which drew the young Micah away from the country’s most popular sport of soccer to the sweet science. People in his neighborhood shouted “boxer, boxer!” at the young man who wasn’t afraid to throw hands with anyone around, even if he was at a significant age or height disadvantage.

“When I was a kid, I liked fighting. I don’t care if you’re older than me, so everybody thinks I’m a boxer even though I wasn’t a boxer,” remembered Micah.

His toughest opponent wasn’t someone he met in the ring, but usually at home.

“My auntie always beat me. She always slapped me. She was too huge; she’s a big woman and all the time she’s beating me. I realized that boxing is something I can learn to defeat her,” said Micah.

“I’m thankful for what my auntie did, all the time beating me, everyone back home beating me. I decided to begin boxing to beat my auntie, and in the process I found my future.”

When he first sought formal training at a boxing gym, he was turned away because he couldn’t pay the gym dues. He returned later with an older fisherman, and the management took one look at their simple appearance and allowed them to train without pay.

Micah admits he didn’t care much for school, and says he later ran away to live with a trainer so he could focus on boxing around the clock.

“It’s like I don’t want to go home again,” said Micah. “The boxing is something I want to do. My young friends are going to school but I said no I want to be in the gym to train with this man.”

By age 15, Micah had earned the attention of the national team and got a chance to represent his country at the 2012 Olympics, captaining a four-man boxing squad which comprised almost half of the nine-athlete delegation Ghana sent to London. It was another year of heartbreak for the country, which has never won a gold and has only earned four medals total since first participating in the 1952 Olympics. Of the nine athletes representing Ghana at the London Games, Micah was the only to experience a victory, having defeated Mauritius’ Jason Oliver Lavigilante on points in the flyweight opener before losing 19-8 to Michael Conlan in the round-of-16.

One of Micah’s teammates in London was Isaac Dogboe, who lost by one point to an eventual bronze medalist and is now the WBO junior featherweight titleholder after stopping Jessie Magdaleno in one of this year’s most exciting title fights. Micah says he could tell back then that Dogboe would be a champion because of his maturity and determination.

After turning pro following London, Micah stopped his first 13 opponents and traveled to famed British boxing venue York Hall in 2016 to defeat the unbeaten Matthew Chanda to win the Commonwealth bantamweight title. He made his U.S. debut last November with a majority decision win over Jose Santos Gonzalez, but has been plagued by a number of fights falling through this year.

“He trains extremely hard and is very astute when it comes to the science of boxing,” said Michael Amoo-Bediako, the British dealmaker who co-manages Micah alongside Jacob Zwennes.

“He has different ways to fight; he can use his skills or he can brawl. He’s very brave and has a fantastic engine, but most of all he believes that he will be a world champion. And so do I.”

Micah is now based in The Bronx, the same New York City borough where Ghanaian world champions Clottey and Joseph Agbeko had set up camp during their American campaigns. He trains with Carl Lokko and Kwame Asante — the latter of whom had trained the aforementioned champions — and recently signed a promotional deal with Evander Holyfield’s Real Deal Boxing.

Micah is rated in the top 15 by two sanctioning bodies, with the WBO rating him No. 7 and the WBC rating him No. 14.

Against Snow, a 37-year-old southpaw from Maryland, Micah figures to be favored in the 10-round bout. If all goes to plan, Amoo-Bediako would like to get Micah back in the ring again in August before looking toward a title fight in 2019.

“Most of the world titles will be tied up in the World Boxing Super Series tournament coming up, so we might have to see how that pans out, but we would like to see him fight for a title early next year,” said Amoo-Bediako.

Providing extra motivation to Micah is that he recently became a father to a boy back home in Ghana. 

“Now I have to work hard because I have one baby boy, so I have to challenge myself because you have to make your baby feel comfortable,” said Micah. “What I passed through, I don’t want my baby to pass through. If it’s not for God, I don’t know where I am. So I have to position my baby very well.

“I have that vision already that I’m going to make it.”

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