I was in Accra, the Ghanaian capital and happened to be wandering around Agbogbloshie - the world’s largest ‘E-waste’ dumpsite and toxic hell-hole, when I met a lethargic guy called Elijah. I was heading towards Togo the following day but Elijah seemed like a real swell guy. Kinda like a big teddy bear. We swapped numbers and he promised that he'd take me to the monthly boxing bout on the dumpsite when I returned. I’d been in Ghana only 4 days and already had more than a dozen local's contact numbers stored in my 16gb iphone 5. Ghanaians like to call you up all the time without a reason, just to chat - or even stay silent on the other end of the line. It was cute. In the beginning.
Anyway, 10 days and a Voodoo Festival later, I was back in Accra. A couple of calls and some hours messing around and we weren’t heading toward the dumpsite anymore - the plan had changed, we were taxiing further south to a neighbourhood called Bukom. We were early - it was still too hot to fight but nobody knew when it would happen so we pottered around for a while, saw some fireworks and I was invited in for a tea to the organiser/referee's ‘office’. He explained that the program was set up to get youths off the streets and give them some focus in their lives. "This small neighbourhood has actually produced FIVE world champion boxers!” he said proudly. It's pretty true. I checked. Then he asked me for some money.Poverty in the hood, growing up on hard-knock streets, motivation to escape it, all combined with programs like this - is resulting in badass boxers, nothing to lose and everything to gain.The first two contenders were about 7 years old.WHACK! thump! dodge, shift, butterflies, bee's - THAT'S IT SONNY!It was a steady build up of fights and the atmosphere was buzzin' - it was obviously a big local event and I was genuinely impressed with how professionally it was conducted. Come to think of it, that's the only boxing fight I've ever been to so I don't really have much reference - apart from the time when Johnny Smith and that chubby lad had a scrap in the graveyard after school (circa.1994) then someone's dad dressed in a suit came in to split it up and in all the excitement slipped over and got grass stains on his trousers and we legged it.Nah, this was much better. The final bout was drenched in controversy though, when the weaker of the two boxers was crowed champion. Apparently it was linked to a sponsorship deal and he HAD to win - but the crowd didn’t like it. Oh, no. New friend of the ref (and only white man in sight), I got called in to strap the belt around the champ’s waist.Actually my favourite part of the afternoon I have to say was meeting an 8 year old kid (pictured in the purple vest) who seemed to be one of the boxers managers and I've never met a kid with as much charisma, look at it - you can see it in his eyes, yeah some kind of Don King reincarnation (even though the King is not dead).Anyway, to sum up - breezy.Words and pictures by Allan Dransfield.