Isaac Dogboe embodies the spirit of ‘NeHo’
Isaac Dogboe wasn’t introduced to a part of his fabric, part of who he is – his special mantra – until later in his life – before he became “Isaac Dogboe, WBO junior featherweight champion.”
However in a way, the meaning of “NeHo,” Dogboe’s special word, has always been coursing through him ever since he put on boxing gloves.
NeHo means to uproot, to lift oneself through adversity and it’s a term that was used by Dogboe’s Ghanaian warrior ancestors that applies today to his daily life as a professional fighter. Dogboe certainly had to summon the power of NeHo when he was knocked to the canvas by Jessie Magdaleno in their first round in April, before stopping Magdaleno in the 11th to win his 122-pound title.
Dogboe (20-0, 14 knockouts) referred back to NeHo when he defended the title for the first time in August, knocking out Japan’s Hidenori Otake in the first round – and he’ll chant again in his second title defense this Saturday against 5-foot-7 Emanuel Navarrete (25-1, 22 KOs), in support of the Vasiliy Lomachenko-Jose Pedraza lightweight championship fight from Madison Square Garden, airing live on ESPN/ESPN Deportes at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT.
“NeHo is something I use because, regardless of the situation in the ring – or any situation – you have to keep coming forward; you never give up. You uproot and accomplish your mission,” Dogboe said. “Neho, to me, helps psyche myself up. You’re going to go through difficulties in the ring but how do you do that?
“You have to psyche yourself up to where you think nothing can get in your way. People may misinterpret the word, that to uproot and destroy everything there. But if the military is going on the battlefield, your soldiers are scared; believe me. But the leader will give them something to recite and that’s the word that I use to keep coming forward and digging deep – and I keep saying that my head, ‘NeHo, NeHo, NeHo.’”
Dogboe, 24, admitted the word didn’t enter his vocabulary until his father and trainer Paul brought it to his attention when he was around 19. Paul Dogboe told his son the story of Isaac’s great grandfather, who fought in World War I. The Dogboes have a warrior heritage and though he was raised in Great Britain, his roots are in Ghana.
“My people were always warriors and God has opened the door for me to be a warrior,” Isaac said. “I was around 19 when I first heard the word. But there are things hidden in your blood and when you’re on this journey, certain things manifest in your blood and rise.”
Dogboe will once again be rising his head to face another substantially taller opponent. Back in August, he made easy work of 5-foot-7½ Otake (31-3-3, 14 KOs), stopping him at 2:18 of the first round. It was the first time Otake had ever been stopped.
Navarrete is listed at slightly shorter, at 5-foot-7, putting Dogboe at a five-inch height disadvantage.
“I’m fighting one of Mexico’s finest warriors, Emanuel Navarrete, and he’s one of the best and I am the best in the division,” Dogboe said. “The world loves exciting fights. Navarrete is tough. He comes to fight but I am the best in this weight division.
“I will take him deep into the trenches. I will need to get inside his reach. But I got here through adversity and I’m not ready to give anything up. Navarrete is someone I can’t overlook. I know he can punch. Once I’m in the ring, I’ll find ways to break him down.”
Dogboe promised that there will be some added nuance to his game. What changes come remain to be seen. He’s been training and living mainly in England but will make a stop in his native Ghana to greet the royal family in early November.
Dogboe also made a commitment to attend Penn State after the fight in January.
But first, there is the Navarrete challenge to deal with.
“We can’t wait,” Paul Dogboe said. “We want Isaac to box more in this fight and want to put in some work before we come up with a game plan. Sometimes what you work on is different than what the reality becomes. We want to pressure Navarrete and we know every time Navarrete gets pressured, he moves back.
“This will be Isaac’s last fight at 122. Isaac is growing and he’s struggling to make the weight. That’s been the only thing different about this training camp. We’re looking forward to the fight. I see it coming. Once we put pressure on (Navarrete), his lights will go out.
“Anyone watching better get there early before his lights go out.”
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