Usually, the first thing that comes to mind after mentioning a "coastal town" is fishing. And if you visit Bukom, a coastal town just outside the city of Accra, Ghana, you’ll definitely find some fish. However, fish didn't put Bukom on the world map – on the contrary, it’s popular for consistently producing some of the greatest boxers in the West beating Las Vegas to the title of "the real Mecca of Boxing."
As at 2015, the small town had 40 gyms, most of which are not up to standard. Emerging from little shacks which make up the small neighborhood, young people spend their days training in boxing gyms to become as big as the five world boxing champions that Bukom has produced so far.
How this hotbed of boxing continues to export indestructible talent to America is still a question that experts are trying to answer. The Ga people, which make up a majority of the population in Bukom, had a traditional fight called asafo atwele before colonization brought them into contact with boxing. And since then, boxing has been a way of life for them.
The way out of poverty
The craze for boxing probably comes from the determination to survive in the face of poverty. Bukom is one of the poorest areas in Ghana but since the 1970s it has done the country proud through famous boxers like David Kotei, Ike Quartey, Emmanuel Clottey and Joshua Clottey, among others. Azumah Nelson, who won three world titles and is widely considered to be the greatest boxer ever to have come out of Africa, also grew up in the neighborhood.
It’s a common sight to see kids as young as 12 sparring with adults, throwing jabs and occasionally stepping into the ring to fight their mates – with scouts waiting to pick up promising talent. Speaking to Vice Sports, Bokum’s most recent world champion, Joshua Clottey who started boxing as a kid, said:
"If you go to most of the gyms, there is not much good punching bags, no good facilities, no speedball. No nothing! It’s terrible. But you know one thing for sure: When you belong from Bukom, it’s always about fighting.
No one is scared. We’re not scared of nothing because, at the end of the day, we know that it’s all about fighting and about hardship throughout our lives until we die."