Jeff Ofori Loks to Win the Golden Contract
By: Oliver McManus
Tottenham’s Jeff Ofori is set for a career-defining twelve months with MTK’s Golden Contract hotting up nicely. The format will crown a winner, in three weight divisions, before the end of the year and, with it, a lucrative multi-fight contract with “a world leading promoter”. Ahead of the semi-finals, on the 21st at York Hall, Ofori began by reflecting on the year just gone:
“It was a slopey up and down year. The first half was frustrating because I was meant to defend my [Southern Area] title twice (against Lucas Ballingall) and then that got put off twice. A lot of people told me that it wasn’t going to happen but I was sticking to it. I think I learned a lot in that year so I’ve decided to just let things be.
“I (look back and) see it as things working out for a reason. If I did fight Lucas Ballingall then perhaps I’d never be in the situation I am now. I’ve just got to go with the flow and everything will happen if it’s supposed to: the opportunities will still be there if it’s meant to be.”
When the 29 year old was able to defend his belt, held at lightweight, his opponent was a distinguished amateur in the form of Alfie Price. On the night Price, snapped up by Queensbury Promotions, executed his game-plan from the off. It wasn’t to be for the defending Champion but Ofori was able to reflect on the bout with real pragmatism.
“It wasn’t the sort of fight I was expecting it to be because I was thinking it would be a rough, tough bout. In the end it was more hype than the fight turned out to be and I learned that is sometimes how it is in boxing: not everything will be the best fight of your life. I feel as though I was too nice in that fight and didn’t take things into my own hands when I should have done. Sometimes you’re going to have to box in ways that won’t be pretty.”
Seven weeks later and Ofori was refusing to sit and mope. “I wasn’t going to cry”, he told me, and was eager to return at a similar level: no more six rounders against Aleksandrs Birkenbergs. This was the start of an MTK Global love-affair with the Londoner brought to Liverpool for a fight with, unbeaten, Ged Carroll.
“After the title fight it didn’t take much out of me. It was my second ten rounder and, to be honest, I just didn’t feel as though it had happened. In my first one (against Jumaane Camero) I knew I’d be in a ten rounder for a good couple days after but I was back in the gym on Monday this time. I was feeling ready and I got the call “do you want to fight in Liverpool?” and I was thinking ‘I get to go away, I get another, I get the TV experience, of course I’m saying yes’.”
Ofori found himself billed in the away corner for the first time in his career but boxed as he always has done. “Rough, ready, and raring to go”, Jeffy picked up a 79-75 win over eight rounds to return to winning rounds. A well-earned victory that served as the highlight of a thoroughly enjoyable weekend for the Londoner.
“It was beautiful (Liverpool) and I’d never been to Liverpool before but everything was there. Everything I’d ever want was right there. We were bang in the city centre and all the people were lovely and I just felt calm and relaxed. I definitely plan on going back up there, in my own time, it was a great place. I got a good four, five days out of it.”
“I was pushing for the stoppage but the guy was tough” he continued, “even though I felt, after six rounds, I was winning this I really wanted to stop him. When they gave me the decision I was thinking “okay, what’s next?”
Luckily for Ofori he didn’t have to think for too long. Just five days later and his phone was ringing again. Once more it was MTK Global on the other end after Lewis Benson was forced to withdraw from the opening Golden Contract quarter-finals. Having been caught up in the bubble of Liverpool, Ofori confessed to “not really knowing” what the format was but he was keen to put ink to paper once hearing of his fellow competitors.
“Again I got a call telling me what was next and I’m saying “for real, hell yeah.” If they thought I was going to go in there as a soft touch then I don’t know what was on their mind. When they called me I thought they were pulling my leg: they rang me on the Wednesday night after my manager had offered me a slot on the undercard. At that point I wasn’t really going for it because I’d obviously only just had a fight but as soon as they mentioned a tournament there was no need to think about it.”
Ofori stepped up to super lightweight for the competition and fought to a split draw with, Welshman, Kieran Gething over ten rounds; Ofori progressed in the tournament courtesy of the referee’s scorecard. The former super featherweight highlighted the strains of making weight in those early days as standing him in good stead for the 140lbs division.
“Getting down to super feather was good for me mentally because it made me aware of the diet. I’ve learned all these things about nutrition because I had to make those weights in the past so now, even when I’m fighting at super lightweight, I’m aware of the process and it makes it so much easier. Mentally it’s made me stronger, too.
That’s where I feel things clicked with the (Gething) fight. In my mind because it was all last minute I didn’t have time to think about things and overthink what I was going to do. I got in there and I fought the fight, largely, on instinct.”
With that win, the always likeable, Ofori continued his run of feel-good results. A semi-final awaits and, for a fighter who was never meant to be in the competition, every opportunity really is a golden one. Last year Ofori did a sponsored sky-dive in aid of Ringside Rest and Care and it was noticeable his first thoughts were with that charity when discussing the ramifications of winning the competition. “There’s a lot riding on it because I want to win big for the guys at the care home”, he revealed.
When poked to talk about himself Ofori began to open up on his experiences as a perennial underdog. Five years ago his goal was to become a professional boxer and people were sceptical; two years he wanted the Southern Area title but had to remain patient. This most recent opportunity may have arrived in part to good fortune but Ofori is determined to show the world just why it was him that got the call.
“Winning this competition would be a big statement for me. If you do win it then obviously there’s a contract waiting and things can sort of take care of themselves, you don’t have to force opportunities any more. I need to prove (that I deserve to be there) and I want to keep proving it.
When we first spoke I was all about being Southern Area champion and I’ve done that but I’m now hungry for the next goal. There will always be someone that’s there to give you a challenge and that keeps me going. Even when you’ve set yourself a goal and achieved you don’t sit back and say “job done”, you set yourself a new goal.”
Five Fights to Look Forward to in the United Kingdom
By: Oliver McManus
At the top level of the game there are plenty of great fights taking place with Britain blessed to have world champion after world champion but take a step backwards to appreciate the full scene and you’ll find a whole host of tasty match-ups happening at levels of the game –
Jason Welborn vs Tommy Langford
Welborn vs Langford has all the ingredients for a scintillating rematch as the “Battle of the Baggies” moves onto round two (well, technically, rounds 13-24) in Birmingham on September 8th.
First time round in Walsall, Jason Welborn took to the centre of the ring right from the off with an incredible work-rate, targeting the body of Langford whilst the champion, Langford, looked to establish what he believed was his technical superiority.
Both fighters were fast on their feet and willing to trade punches with neither afraid of taking a shot in order to land a flurry of their own and even though Welborn came into the fight the, large, betting underdog, he showed no signs of relenting as went into the championship rounds, staying busy and landing an accumulation of punches.
The fight was up for grabs and in a genuine domestic thriller, Welborn emerged the victor via a narrow split decision (114-113, 114-113, 113-115) and claimed the British Middleweight championship from his rival.
This time round on the undercard of Khan-Vargas, Welborn will be looking to go one step even further than he manged in May and stop Langford within the distance – let’s not forget that Langford was counted in the 2nd round after the ropes had held him up –, enhancing his position as a genuine contender in the packed middleweight scene.
Tommy, on the other hand, will be looking for redemption and bounce back from his second loss in the space of 13 months – the first, a fifth round TKO loss to Avtandil Khurtsidze – with a dedicated, technical performance that, prior to these potential hiccups, had seen him being targeted for an all-British showdown with Billy Joe Saunders.
Indeed Langford wasn’t on his A Game when the first fight occurred, not that we should take any credit away from Welborn, and you could argue that he adapted a little too much to the game-plan of his challenger – stick to the basics, work the jab and that’s when Langford really hits his stride.
Jeff Ofori vs Jumaane Camero
Has this fight been mentioned enough recently? Spot the sarcasm because this fight is, put simply, A FIGHT. One better than that, it’s a fight that you genuinely cannot pick a winner from.
It’s a fight that you don’t want to HAVE to pick a winner from, either, both of these guys are genuine, humble people who haven’t forgotten where they come from. Ultimately, though, on September 15th one of these lightweights will emerge as the Southern Area champion – Camero having defended it successfully or Ofori having mounted a victorious challenge.
Stylistically the two are vastly different with Camero having, typically, been the more patient and measured boxer who likes to control the fight at his own tempo and has quite a unique style but, make no mistake, is capable of packing a whack so you do not want to be on the end of one of those big punches.
As Jumaane says, himself, he is “freakishly long limbed” and possess a style that makes dealing with him incredibly awkward – Ofori, on the other hand, is much more of your typical aggressor, seeking to take each and every fight with a high-tempo, guns-blazing style of boxing.
At the end of June, Ofori faced a tough journeyman, Luke Fash, in full knowledge that this Southern Area fight was to follow and Jeff looked imperious, cutting off the ring really well and attacking the body of Fash with vim and vigour – speaking to Ofori afterwards, however, he said he wanted more rounds to get used to the longer distances, as opposed to his fourth round knockout.
This will be Ofori’s first ten round bout but with both men talking as though they expect it not to last the scheduled distance there is no doubt that September 15th will see fireworks aplenty – Ofori needs to keep up his aggression, work the short uppercut when he’s on the ropes whilst Camero should look to use his awkward style and height advantage to the best of his ability, the styles will mesh and produce a sumptuous bout so all that’s left to do is buy the tickets because you do not want to miss this.
Cello Renda vs Luke Cowcroft
Cello Renda is a man who, for a long time now, has always promised much and whilst he has achieved one hell of a lot – current Southern Area champion, challenged for the English and British belts – there’s been a distinct feeling that, actually, he could be coming into the best years of his fighting career.
A win against Leon McKenzie, last year, re-established himself on the map and look at his record, you’ll see he’s fought Liam Conroy, Jack Arnfield, Sam Horton, Martin Murray, Danny Butler, Tom Doran, Paul Smith and these are not names to be sniffed at by any stretch of the imagination.
But, as mentioned, it was that fight against McKenzie that really seemed to, on paper, ignite something within him as he demonstrated his power, precision and sheer toughness to an absolute tee – Renda was in a war and he came out on top. Since then he’s been targeting the English title that Darryll Williams holds and this fight against Cowcroft is serving as an eliminator for that belt.
Cowcroft, on the other hand, is taking a huge step in quality but Stefy Bull clearly thinks he’s talented enough to carry off an upset and the mood around the Doncaster light-heavyweight is distinctly upbeat and it’s clear to see that he’s improved significantly in the three years that he’s been out of the ring.
Not so much of a power puncher as Renda, Cowcroft has an absolute engine within him and will be looking to out-work Cello, tiring the Southern Area champion, before mounting a late surging attack as he, to boot, looks to prove any doubters wrong.
This fight has all the makings of an absolute classic, Cello Renda looked the best he’s ever looked up against Leon McKenzie, punch-perfect stoppage, and Luke Cowcroft is constantly developing, constantly learning and not just in training but in the ring, too, up against Renda he will need to have learnt an awful lot but if anyone can secure such an upset, surely, it’s the man from Doncaster.
Jazza Dickens vs Martin Ward
A rematch for the vacant British super-bantamweight title, made possible by Thomas Patrick Ward withdrawing from the scheduled fight and opting to fight for the IBF European belt instead.
Jazza Dickens has had a frustrating last couple years following his loss to Guillermo Rigondeaux, a fight that resulted in a broken jaw for Dickens, and was unfortunate last year to suffer a cut above the left eye against Patrick Ward that forced the contest to go the scorecards early – Dickens was trailing but had momentum and the fight was shaping up to be a real pick ‘em with everything likely coming down to the final three rounds.
Since then the Liverpool fighter has looked crisp in training, arguably in the shape of his life, and against Martin Ward, on July 27th, there’s every expectation of a better, more convincing performance than the last time they fought (in 2015).
Three years ago this duo fought the full 12 rounds before a split decision rendered Dickens the winner and, in turn, the British champion – Dickens was the fighter pressing the case and working the angles but a split decision was probably accurate.
With Dickens there is little doubt just how talented a fighter he is and the southpaw possess all the technical traits that could see him go all the way, on top of that he has a brilliant energy, work-rate and stamina that marks him out as a complete fighter just waiting to get tested.
Martin Ward, former British and Commonwealth Champion, is not to be underestimated and the experienced fighter relies on a patient game-plan, looking to take the fight at a constant, comfortable pace, often fighting at distance.
Past performances would suggest that Ward has peaked at around the British level with his previous step up to European level resulting in a second round knockout loss to Abigail Medina – not the greatest of opponent but no-one to discredit – and this fight in Houghton Le Spring will be seen as the 30 year old’s golden opportunity to really propel his name back into the talking.
Dickens would, you assume, prevail in this contest especially if he is to reach the heights he is expected but, as happens time and time again, you can never assume anything in boxing and the winner of this contest, Dickens or Ward, will have a couple of cracking clashes in the offing.
Kyle Yousaf vs Tommy Frank
Stefy Bull has been announcing some really good fights as of late – Atif Shafiq vs Andy Townend, Robbie Barrett vs Matty Fagan – and Kyle Yousaf vs Tommy Frank is part of the stellar card taking place in Barnsley on October 5th.
An application has been made to the BBBofC for this bout to be for the English belt and when you look at the domestic shake-up then there can be no qualms about the fight having such status.
Having the poisoned chalice of competing in the lower weight divisions, Yousaf and Frank have had a criminally small amount of media attention throughout their careers despite them both being absolutely phenomenal fighters.
Yousaf, the more experienced with 13 fights, beholds an impressive fighting brain with his ability to pick punches marking him out at an early stage of his career. Not many fighters, when they first turn pro, are mature enough to identify periods of the bout when they don’t need to come out swinging but Yousaf, still only 25, has frequently shown incredible maturity during the ring.
Against Gyula Dodu there was a punch-perfect display from the Golden Kid as he used his left jab repeatedly to keep on top of his opponent before dropping down to the body with some telling right hands to the body. A superb right to the head of Dodu, launched with exquisite timing and precision, finished off the fight and even though the bout lasted 118 seconds, the talent on show was mouthwatering.
Tommy ‘Super Frank’ is the current Central Area Super Flyweight champion and against Craig Derbyshire, in Frank’s seventh fight, the Yorkshire boxer impressed with his fight pace, going 10 rounds but looking comfortable throughout, and his commanding presence at the centre of the ring enables him to cut space off for his opponent, shortening the distance and letting Frank work the inside of his opponent – something he does particularly well.
When the hands get loose, they don’t half pack a punch and with a strong preference for targeting the body, he knows to pressure the opposition onto the ropes before unleashing with a series of alternating shots to the body.
In terms of power Yousaf probably has the upper hand, that should be evident from his superior knockout rate, but this is a fight you don’t see getting stopped early, it’s an enthralling battle between two young, hungry, undefeated fighters and it has all the ingredients of being an absolute barnstormer.