Boxing News of Tuesday, 20 August 2002
SOMEWHERE in an incospicuous part of Teshie-Nungua Estates - a dead end, actually - stands a house that looks more uninhabited than habited.
The silence that hangs over the house gives an approaching visitor the impression that nobody lives there, but there are five occupants - a man, his three daughters and a grandson.
Unless a person going to this house knows who is the landlord, there is nothing to suggest that it is the abode of one of the nation's greatest sports celebrities - David Kotei, aka D. K. Poison, Ghana's first World boxing champion.
Poison has no long story to tell for his modest living condition, although it is known some factors have made it impossible for him to live very comfortably like other celebrities.
Even on the fringes of comfortable living, poison appears content with whatever condition he finds himself in now. He is particularly fond of his less-than-a-year old grandson whom he affectionately calls General.
But Poison has so much pain in him, pain that has exacerbated with time since 1976. It is not pain brought on by any feeling that he no longer enjoys the celebrity status that was his for the savouring after he became World Champion in 1975. It's all about how justice has eluded him since 1975 in his attempts to get back an amount of $7,000 that was part of his purse but which he claims was used for other things without his approval.
It is most unfortunate that this matter involves the venerable Justice D. F. Annan, a man who has done so much, not only for our boxing, but for the country. The embarrassment this matter has engendered could have been avoided if serious attempts had been made to establish the truth in Poison?s claim and pay back his money.
It is certainly not for want of asking or demanding that Poison hasn't had the money paid back to him. He has been pressing for it for twenty six years now, a situation that culminated in the setting up of a Committee of Inquiry into the matter and the parting of ways between the boxer and his late trainer, Attuquaye Clottey, alleged to have been one of the beneficiaries of the amount in question. Some people may be wondering why after over two decades of futile attempts to get his money back he hasn't forgotten about the matter. Maybe it has something to do with how people dictated to him as to how his own hard-earned money should be used.
Apart from the controversial $7,000 which is the source of Poison's pain, the government of the day - that was what we were made to understand - directed that $20,000 of the $30,000 he received in the title defence against Japanese Fukuyama should be used to import Mackerel (Tinapa) which was in short supply in the country for Ghanaians.
Earlier on after a Commonwealth title defence in Lagos (before he won the WBC title), Poison had had to perform the humanitarian act of allowing his purse to be used in paying the salary of the staff of the Ghana High Commission. The staff had not been paid their salary because of the suffocating hiccups our economy was going through at the time. In all these Poison obliged the lending of a hand because of the realisation that he was also indebted to the nation for its role in his rise to the zenith of boxing.
The donation of the Teshie-Nungua Estates house to Poison by the Kutu Acheampong government was also an indication of the nation's appreciation of the pride he brought to it by being its first world champion. Doubtless an unprecedented act of motivating any sportsman in Ghana's history, it need not necessarily assuage Poison's pain in connection with the $7,000 controversy.
He has every right to feel bitter about what happened to him. People should look at the issue from the standpoint of whether our first World Champion was treated fairly or not.
I have heard some people say that Poison could have guaranteed himself comfortable living with whatever money he made during his short reign as World Champion, especially since the money used in buying Mackerel for Ghanaians and paying the staff of the High Commission in Lagos was paid back to him. There maybe a point in that, but we don't have to look at the matter so simplistically. As our first World Champion, Poison had no predecessor's shortcomings to learn from, like Azumah Nelson, in all probability, learned from him (Poison) or Ike Quartey learned from Azumah. Given the tragic circumstances under which he lost his title, coupled with the vicissitudes he went through later, including the dislocations in his matrimonial life, the fact is that so much went wrong for the ex-World Champion as to make him lose his balance.
I don't think D. K. Poison is saying this country owes him a living. He has only been crying out against some form of injustice that was perpetrated against him twenty six years ago and for which he has found no redress. It is as simple as that.
Poison?s light as far as boxing is concerned may have been out for such a long time, but the truth is that he remains an icon who blazed the trail for others to follow. For that reason alone the nation owes him a debt of gratitude, just like we owe to Azumah Nelson, Ike Quartey and pioneers like Roy Ankrah, Floyd Klutei Robertson, Joe Tetteh and Eddy Blay.
Despite failed attempts to involve them in the country's boxing administration in the past, we still need men like Eddy and Poison to help us to develop the sport. We don't have to wait till they die before we disturb their corpses with endless eulogies which mean nothing to the dead, anyway.
The recognition that we accord our heroes and heroines could be more heartwarming to them than giving them money and material things.