By Oliver McManus @OliverGMcManus
The welterweight division is a real hotbed of talent across the United Kingdom but continually there is a name that seems to go missing in conversation. Ekow Essuman a former Lionhearts representative in the World Series of Boxing and a ‘podium squad’ member of Team GB.
As a professional, since 2016, he’s racked up nine wins without defeat and claimed the English title in his last outing. After a period of ‘staying on the leash’, as he put it, Ekow is looking to push towards bigger fights. That starts off with a voluntary defence of his belt against Tyrone Nurse on March 16th and our conversation began by discussing the preparation for such a fight.
“I’m feeling great, I’ve had a good camp and I’ve been looking to build on my strength. I know he’s a very experienced boxer but I’m feeling really confident about it. I’m 29 and I’ve boxed experienced guys in the amateurs so I want to start replicating that as a professional. I don’t want to let my level fall and then start boxing within my ability against opponents that won’t really test me. I believe I’ll box better when I have bigger opposition which is why I’m looking to continue growing the quality of my opponents.”
If he wants to get into a real fight and mix it then that’s probably not his best plan
It’s hard to remember the two fighters are the same age when you consider the fact Nurse has had 33 more fights than Essuman. On a downward slide with three losses in a row – one contentiously in Australia and another via split decision – Essuman is cautious of taking too much stock from the recent form of his challenger,
“He will definitely be hungry and try to prove the doubters wrong, I’m not sure if that will work to his advantage, though. If he wants to get into a real fight and mix it then that’s probably not his best plan. He will be driven and that’s helped to drive me. The thing is, you can’t read too much into his losses because when you analyse those fights – and fights he’s won – they’ve not got a similar style to me. I will present a new challenge and I’m confident I’ll win it.”
Reflecting on his last fight, against Andy Keates, in which he claimed the first major title of his career, the 29 year old was confident we would see more of his natural ability on March 16th,
“I gave myself a B for the last fight, I wasn’t fully happy with my performance. I only showed people that I can be tough and go to war with someone who has that sort of a style. People still haven’t seen much of my technical side and we know that Tyrone Nurse will bring that out in me. I’m looking forward to showing people my real strength, my other side. The finish, though, the body shots were deliberately planned for Keates. We wanted to lull him into a comfort zone and then pick him off with the body shots.”
Speaking in a measured voiced, Essuman was very articulate about his life and career, with a confidence that really carried through his tone of voice. A defining fight since turning professional was his eight rounder bruiser against Serge Ambomo. Up against a former Olympian, this was the first fight in which someone really fought back and Essuman says, ever since then, he’s been a different fighter altogether.
Four fights have followed in which the three-time National Championships medalist has looked unfazed. Talk turned, then, to what the rest of 2019 could hold and Engine, a nickname afforded to him whilst on Team GB because of his relentless work rate, told me that big fights were a matter of when not if.
“I’m not in the sport to be a number, I want to make my mark and I need to fight the best possible opponents in order to do that. My opposition will keep stepping up, I want bigger names and bigger titles. I’d love to get a shot against Johnny Garton for the British title but Conor Benn and Josh Kelly, as well, put them against me and I’ll win.”
Having initially signed with Frank Warren, the Nottinghamshire fighter has decided to “go it alone” as a result of “failed promises” from the promoter. Despite the inevitable frustration of such a situation, Essuman wasn’t bitter in the slightest instead heaping praise on the stability of the core team around him,
“I train with Barrington Brown and Mark Howell, two former professional boxers, and I’m managed by Jimmy Gill. We’ve got a good camp of around 12 other boxers and we’re like a family. Barrington is the kind of coach who has been through it all – wins and losses – and his knowledge is incredible. I’ll be in the middle of a fight, I’ll always hear his voice more than anything, he’s kind of a clairvoyant in a sense because he sees changes in my opponent before they’ve even happened. It’s great to be able to trust someone like that.”
Confidence exudes from the Marketing graduate of Nottingham Trent with an insistence that it’s only a matter of time before he’s making his mark on televised shows,
“I’d love to be on TV, that’s always an aim, but I wasn’t getting the exposure or fights that I wasn’t promised. As a team we decided it would be best if we did it ourselves, force our way through the door. It’s not just me but you’ve got Derrick Osaze, Nina Bradley and Leigh Wood. I strongly believe that with all the talent, we’re all around the titles, in Nottingham that we are a place that cannot keep being ignored.
“The unlicensed boxing scene, here, have filled the Trent Arena before so it just goes to show the appetite there is for it. The cream always rises to the top it is only a matter of time until we get a big show in Nottingham, it’s got to happen. I can’t wait for it.”
Outside of boxing there is plenty to keep Essuman on his toes, he runs a photo-booth business with his partner and he told me about what his life will look like after full-time boxing.
I’ve had people at the weddings notice me before
“I’ll always be involved in boxing, you can never leave it behind, I love being in the camp environment. I’ve got fallbacks, though, so I’m not sure if I’d be a full-time trainer. I’ve always enjoyed making and creating stuff, I got an A-Level in Business but I wanted to be more creative at uni, shortly after I started working with a big web developer and that was really exciting.
“I’ve a lot of stuff to keep me preoccupied and out of trouble, on my days off I’ll be doing photobooths at weddings and corporate events. It’s always at places where I least expect to get recognised that it happens, I’ve had people at the weddings notice me before. It really strikes a chord in me because a little kid might recognise me and get really excited so it makes me think to always conduct myself well in public and be an example for the younger generation.”
This wouldn’t be a Big Write Hook interview without the classic curveball question at the end, in typical fashion, here is Ekow Essuman telling me what cake he would be in the afterlife,
“This is a hard one, I would be a trio, you know when you got to ASK or Zizzi and they bring out the selection of cakes, that sort of thing. I would be a baked vanilla cheesecake, a carrot cake and, lastly, a layered red velvet cake. This interview has made me hungry, mate, you’re giving me ideas of what to do when I win!”
Ekow Essuman fights Tyrone Nurse on March 16th, at the Harvey Hadden Sports Village, with a distinct eye of gatecrashing bigger titles throughout 2019.
A win against Nurse would be the catalyst required to really push Essuman on and, trust me, the prodigious talent has a bark every bit as big as his bite. Boxing in Nottingham is having a field day and Ekow is leading the charge.