YEAR OF THE DOG?

Dog boe meets up with us ahead of his WBO su­per-ban­tamweight ti­tle tilt

Boxing News - - Contents -

Globe-trot­ting Gha­nian Isaac Dog­boe tells John

Den­nen why you have to be a mon­ster to tame a mon­ster ahead of his chal­lenge for the WBO su­per-ban­tamweight ti­tle

HE’S come a long way. Isaac Dog­boe had the tal­ent to be­come a world ti­tle chal­lenger. But the route he’s taken is re­mark­able. The dap­per su­per­ban­tamweight, hold­ing the WBO In­terim ti­tle in a suit­case, has re­turned for a brief stop at Miguel’s gym in south Lon­don, his hometown. The route he’s taken to pick up this par­tic­u­lar strap saw him make a pro­fes­sional de­but in Berne, Switzer­land, com­pete in Cal­i­for­nia, catch the eye of Top Rank in New Zealand, then agi­tate with the WBO to get that In­terim ti­tle con­test. Of Ghana­ian her­itage, he brought Ce­sar Juarez to a sta­dium in Ac­crah, bat­tered him to a fifth round de­feat and guar­an­teed his shot at WBO su­per-ban­tamweight world cham­pion Jessie Mag­daleno.

These were ex­tra­or­di­nary bat­tles for a 23-year-old, who smiles broadly as he re­calls them, his strangely cheru­bic face still un­scarred de­spite the wind­ing path that took him through these fights. “We’ve been on the road for four years. Fight­ing ev­ery­where, fight­ing ev­ery­one. Wher­ever there’s a ti­tle when they call us we say yes. We’ve never pulled out of a fight and said no we’re not re­ally sure about this or sure about that. When­ever the op­por­tu­nity presents it­self you see us there,” he tells Box­ing News. “The best part of box­ing is also the trav­el­ling. Go­ing to new places. So it’s all ex­cit­ing.”

He’s not, yet, well known to a British au­di­ence. The last time he fought in Eng­land, he was an am­a­teur, beat­ing Ryan Filling­ham in a drafty, shed-like con­struc­tion on the out­skirts of Houghton-le-spring to win the 2013 ABA lightweight ti­tle. Then he turned pro­fes­sional and with his fa­ther as his trainer be­gan this par­tic­u­lar Odyssey. “My first fight was in Switzer­land, it was in Berne. My sec­ond one was in Ire­land. Then went to Cal­i­for­nia, had about six fights, went to Ari­zona, then Ghana, then New Zealand, the Joseph Parker show. That was for the WBO In­ter­na­tional ti­tle,” he said.

“Su­per-ban­tamweight, that va­cant ti­tle pre­sented it­self,” Dog­boe con­tin­ued. “Why not? Love to fight. I didn’t have no prob­lem mak­ing that weight. All the fights I’d had were at featherweight but nat­u­rally I reg­is­tered as a su­per-ban­tamweight. Since I was in Los An­ge­les, I wasn’t get­ting any fights, we au­to­mat­i­cally started fight­ing in the featherweight di­vi­sion just to get the fights. Some­times peo­ple would come in much heav­ier than I but we’d just say you know what, I’ve trained for this fight, why not? Let’s get it on.”

That brav­ery led Dog­boe to es­tab­lish him­self in Ghana, no easy feat. “It was crazy,” he said. “It was en­emy ter­ri­tory.”

“That was how bad it was,” Paul, his fa­ther, added.

“You had to man up. The box­ing scene in Ghana has changed rapidly in a pos­i­tive way,” Isaac noted. “When we first got to Ghana, box­ing was not how it is now, it was in a bad state.”

Isaac had to prove him­self. But he has done that be­fore. When he was just 17 Dog­boe trav­elled out there to fight for a place on their Olympic team, then qual­ify for Lon­don 2012. “Go­ing to Ghana to qual­ify for the team, to make the team, same as in the pros, it was: ‘This British guy is com­ing here and he wants to take our place’. It was re­ally po­lit­i­cal, the box­ers and ev­ery­thing. We had to fight our way through. But I had all the bases, all the foun­da­tions. Go­ing back there the peo­ple were strong phys­i­cally, but most of them were not tech­ni­cally sound, sk­il­ful. So it was more or less like us­ing the skills to beat their strength. That’s how I was able to go to Morocco [to box in the Africa Olympic qual­i­fi­ca­tion event for Ghana]. It was al­right. I was the only per­son to win a sil­ver medal for Ghana. In the fi­nals, it went on count­back with some­one [Aboubakr Lbida] from the host na­tion. Him win­ning on count­back it was like, ‘yeah okay. Ev­ery­body knows what that is.’ The ul­ti­mate goal was the Olympic Games, but ev­ery­body knows what hap­pened there. I don’t need to say any­thing about it,” Dog­boe said.

WHEN HE WON IT WAS LIKE, ‘YEAH OKAY, EV­ERY­BODY KNOWS WHAT THAT IS.’ EV­ERY­BODY KNOWS WHAT HAP­PENED AT THE OLYMPICS TOO”

IT WAS CRAZY, IT WAS EN­EMY TER­RI­TORY. YOU HAD TO MAN UP”

Suf­fice to say, he didn’t agree with the scor­ing that saw him lose his first Olympic con­test to Ja­pan’s Satoshi Shimizu. But the main thing was be­ing at that glo­ri­ous tour­na­ment in his hometown. “The Olympics was hap­pen­ing right here, in Lon­don, my hometown. I just had to be part of it. It’s al­ways great to be part of some­thing. My fa­ther was telling me that it’s good to break records and set records. Com­ing from Lam­beth and hav­ing all my ed­u­ca­tion here, it was just great to ac­tu­ally in­spire my peers and ev­ery­one. Seven­teen, [one of] the youngest [box­ers] in the Olympics. So it was a proud mo­ment for my­self and the com­mu­nity. I re­mem­ber, I think I was in Cardiff in camp, I was see­ing ar­ti­cles on the in­ter­net about South Lon­don boy Isaac Dog­boe has qual­i­fied for the Olympics,” he beamed. “It was great.”

“Right now,” he adds, “the im­por­tant thing is fo­cus­ing on the pros and ac­tu­ally putting my print in the game.”

He’s made his mark in Ghana now. His vic­tory over Ce­sar Juarez at the Bukom Box­ing Arena was an in­tense event. “It was elec­tric. The sta­dium was small, I came out of the chang­ing room, be­cause it’s an open place I could see peo­ple on top of the roof,” Dog­boe re­called. “There were still more peo­ple out­side than in­side, it was crazy. They had to call re­in­force­ments, a com­bi­na­tion of the po­lice and the mil­i­tary to ac­tu­ally con­trol the crowd. More peo­ple were try­ing to get in so they had to call re­in­force­ments to come and main­tain or­der. We had the British am­bas­sador, the Amer­i­can am­bas­sador, Aus­tralia, Mex­ico, Is­rael’s am­bas­sador… Many dig­ni­taries and many peo­ple in the coun­try.”

“I came out and the arena was packed,” he con­tin­ued. “As soon as they called my name, the crowd was shout­ing. Oh my days, that was the big­gest stage. It felt spe­cial, re­ally, re­ally spe­cial. It was amaz­ing. It’s al­ways great to have all those mem­o­ries. Now you have to build upon it.”

Isaac had to de­liver in the ring against Juarez. “I was the un­der­dog in that fight. Ev­ery­one was doubt­ing my abil­ity, say­ing I’m still too young. Juarez, this guy he fights with his heart, he fights with pas­sion. The guy’s got too much ex­pe­ri­ence. He’s too strong. He’s too tena­cious,” Dog­boe said. “I can only thank God for that vic­tory. The pas­sion was there. The adrenalin was there. The emo­tion was there. My fa­ther had to go back to ba­sics, he had me sit­ting down, work­ing on all sorts of train­ing. The camp re­ally pre­pared me for that fight and when the time came, we knew we were go­ing to take him out. It was a mat­ter of time. He kept com­ing for­ward ev­ery time. He just keeps com­ing for­ward. I’m sure he didn’t ex­pect me to put him down in round two.”

He fin­ished him in round five. “The fiercest per­son in the di­vi­sion was Ce­sar Juarez. Ev­ery­one knows him as a durable fighter. This guy, re­gard­less of what you throw at him, he keeps com­ing for­ward. To be able to take out the fiercest per­son in the di­vi­sion, it takes a mon­ster to tame an­other mon­ster. You have to be able to tame the beast,” Dog­boe grinned again.

Now, Isaac as­sures us, he is fa­mous in Ghana. “On the night of the fight, the whole town is quiet. The whole town is quiet. Ev­ery­where is just silent. Ev­ery­one, ei­ther they’re glued to a TV or they’re in a bar, those that could not make it to the arena. The arena gen­er­ally is al­ways packed. Mil­i­tary per­son­nel and po­lice and all sorts. It gets re­ally crazy. The at­mos­phere is awe­some. You have to be there to see it, to ac­tu­ally wit­ness it. To feel it,” he said.

“Right now my name is a house­hold name in Ghana,” he laughed. “When I walk with you in Ghana I wouldn’t have to do any­thing. You wouldn’t have to spend any­thing.” “The plan is to be­come a global megas­tar!” He plans in fact to re­turn to the UK and re­main set­tled here while he at­tends univer­sity. But a fi­nal over­seas ven­ture comes first. On Satur­day (April 28) he fights Jessie Mag­daleno for the WBO su­per-ban­tamweight world ti­tle at the Li­a­couras Cen­ter in Philadel­phia. Dog­boe re­vealed, “We’ve had our en­coun­ters be­fore. May-pac, that was when I sparred Mag­daleno in Ve­gas. We went for the fight and we found our­selves at his gym. We were sup­posed to do 10 rounds spar­ring. This got heated up re­ally quick. The spar­ring got hot. The spar was re­ally hot, so his peo­ple were like, you know what that’s enough. Five rounds is enough. Be­cause of how in­tense the spar­ring was. I think he’s a good boxer. We know he’s quick, he’s a south­paw, all the ba­sic stuff. He’s good. I just think we have the an­ti­dote to ev­ery­thing that he’s bring­ing to the ta­ble.”

That spar­ring ses­sion in­forms Dog­boe’s view on how the fight is go­ing to go. “I think that he’s go­ing to try to match me strength for strength. We know that he’s go­ing to run any­way be­cause that’s what he does all the time. He’s go­ing to try and prove some­thing,” Isaac said. “We know in the first in­stance he’s go­ing to stand there, we’re go­ing to trade… He’ll try to test the wa­ters to see how strong I am and how strong he is and stuff like that. That’s what we think any­way. But like I said what­ever he brings to the ta­ble we’ve got the an­ti­dote.”

Cru­cially, Dog­boe is sure the hard road he has taken to reach this mo­ment means he will out­last Mag­daleno. “I know he’s a good boxer, he’s good, he’s got ev­ery­thing go­ing on for him. But like I said this is our time now. We think that he’s just been pam­pered for too long. If you look at the peo­ple that he’s fought, of course he de­serves to be a cham­pion, he’s worked hard for it. You can­not un­der­es­ti­mate any­one they put in front of you,” Isaac said, but he adds, “We are a dif­fer­ent cal­i­bre of fight­ers that he’s fought. He hasn’t fought any­one like me.”

IN GHANA I AM A HOUSE­HOLD NAME. IT GETS CRAZY AND THE AT­MOS­PHERE IS AWE­SOME. YOU HAVE TO BE THERE TO SEE IT, TO WIT­NESS IT, TO FEEL IT.”

THE WIN­NER: Dog­boe con­tin­ues to thrive in ev­ery new en­vi­ron­ment he en­coun­ters and, even at just 23, he’s en­coun­tered plenty

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