Isaac The Royal Storm Dogboe sounded tough – like a champion – even in his low point. He spoke as though he had just not come out of a sound beating.
His shoulders had dropped, face badly swollen with his eyes bulging out of its sockets. It looked really bad.
Emmanuelle Navarrete had won the world title. Something Dogboe had worked for all his life had been taken away from him.
“It was a great fight. Emmanuelle Navarrete fought like a true Mexican. I couldn’t stay down because champions are not meant to stay down. We are supposed to go down, get back up and keep fighting and that’s what I did,” he said after the bout.
It has been quite a long time though since that forgettable fight. The 24-year-old has called it a “moment of adversity” in his career – a part of his career he probably wouldn’t include in his scrapbook when the gloves finally go up.
Many pundits believe the Dogboes underestimated Navarrete going into the fight, which was careless on their part. But who wouldn’t? Put yourself in these decent shoes.
If you had stopped the fiercest boxer in your division in the 5th round, knocked the champion down in the 11th round to win the title and beat the next opponent without breaking a sweat, there would be no little room for complacency.
Dogboe and his father were culprits of the shame that comes with underestimating the ‘underdog’.
But is Navarrete really an underdog? Did he deserve to be treated as one? The man had 22 KOS from 27 fights, had lost once and had been on a 20 fight win streak before he met Dogboe.
His father has cooked up several excuses as reasons why his son lost, but all cannot hold a glass of water.
Now, Dogboe is focused on getting back in shape again for a rematch with Emmanuelle Navarrete set for May 11 in Tucson, Arizona.
They say, hard times require a person to accept change and the Dogboes are on this path in their quest to be glorious again.
They have chosen Keta, a town along the coastlines of the Volta Region, as a new spot for their training.
The small town is very different from the busy, blustery Shidaa Street in the Awudome estates where Dogboe lives in Accra.
In Keta, it is a quieter suburban. The people love him and sing his name whenever he walks by. His training regimen has changed too.
He runs from neighbouring Denu to Tegbi, which is a 17-mile journey every morning – a distance that is longer than the length of the Tema Motorway if we are putting it in perspective – before he gets into his light work training with his reaction balls and punching bags.
Dogboe explained: “We are doing eight hours a day. It is like a daily job. We have to make sure that we right all the wrongs that happened in New York in December and that’s the reason why we pitched our camp out here. Everything is going pretty well. It is a tough challenge and I am enjoying it.”
His sparring sections have grown tougher as the days go by too.
The finest of boxers in the Volta Region are his sparring partners.
A quick look at the man shows he is getting there. To full fitness where he is at his dangerous best.
On getting his fitness back and hitting top levels again, Dogboe said, “I feel great. You get demotivated after a loss like mine but after that long period of rest, you need [to] get up and go through it again. It is a phase, a learning process. Right now I believe my mind is in the right place”.
Dogboe’s mental toughness has always been one of his strongest fortes.
In August 2016, I watched him in a bout against Filipino Neil John Tabanao where he hurt a part of his arm in the early rounds of the bout but went on and on till he grabbed the WBC Youth title with a gritty unanimous decision.
He has since noted that fight as one of his toughest yet.
The sort of mental strength that saw him through is the sort of mental strength he is building for the rematch against Navarrete.
“I am looking at a fit Isaac Dogboe and a fit Isaac Dogboe is a dangerous Isaac Dogboe,” his father, Paul, bragged.
Reeling from that painful defeat at every boxer’s dream venue, The Madison Square Garden, Dogboe will need to garner all his powers to surmount a hurdle that looks insurmountable for now.
“May 11, I promise you I am knocking Emmanuelle Navarrete out. I have seen him now. I know him now and a lot has changed since December 9,” the former champion said.
It will take a great deal of work from the man who has his sights on Azumah Nelson’s boxing record more than anything at the moment.
He knows it will not come easy and he is prepared well on the path to show the world that he probably might not have the story of most Ghanaian boxers who have risen to the top but he can write an entirely new one. NEHO!
By Yaw Ofosu Larbi
The writer is a sports journalist with TV3, 3FM & 3news.com.