To many, living at Bukom in Accra could be the biggest motivation for one to choose boxing as a career to pursue Renowned referee Roger Barnor was no exception to this school of thought.
It isn’t wrong to assume Bukom as the hub of African boxing, especially when it has produced seven of Ghana’s world champions, and is considered as the only community globally to have had the highest number of world titlists.
The likes of David ‘Poison’ Kotei, Azumah Nelson, Ike Quartey, Alfred Kotey, Joshua Clottey, Emmanuel ‘Gameboy’ Tagoe and Richard Commey, all hail from the famed Bukom township.
It was the love of the sport in the community of Bukom that drew a young Roger Barnor to boxing fight nights just to catch a glimpse of grudge fights mostly between known faces.
Referee Barnor recounted how he was asked by former Ghana Boxing Federation president, Colonel John Sharp, to officiate a bout he went to watch, and it later turned out to be his first love.
He said the courageous way he officiated the bout won him admiration from Colonel Sharp who recommended him to have training as a referee in order to become a professional in the trade.
The decision to choose officiating over entering the ring to fight as a boxer to him was as a result of his mother kicking against being a fighter. However, referee Barnor found solace in officiating in a sport he had loved all his life.
Meeting Ike Quartey
Aside deciding to be a referee just to be associated with boxing, Roger Barnor had also fallen in love with an explosive fighter in Ike Quartey who he described as a boxer he couldn’t stay a day without watching.
He said his love for the former World Boxing Association (WBA) welterweight champion was so deep that he visited his trainings and fight nights before later becoming his friend and a close confidant.
It was when Quartey relocated to Europe to challenge for world championships which he said could have ended his chances of watching bouts that propelled him to consider Colonel Sharpe’s advice of training as a referee just to gain entrance to fight nights.
According to him, Quartey inspired his interest in becoming a referee, by advising him and investing in his chosen field to make sure he attained greater heights in his field of endeavour.
“I grew up at Bukom and you know the love people have for boxing in that vicinity so that was where it started for me. I remember I went to watch an amateur fight and Colonel Sharpe asked be to officiate a bout and even though I was nervous, I gave it a try,” referee Barnor recounts.
“After the bout, Colonel Sharpe asked me to take up training in refereeing but I wasn’t really interested because I had always wanted to be a boxer but my mother wouldn’t allow me.
“I later fell in love with Ike Quartey, which meant I had to watch his trainings and fight nights and luckily for me he became a close friend along the line,” he added.
All these while, Roger Barnor had the opportunity to become a boxing trainer which he turned down due to the intensity of the job of overseeing so many fighters.
After 24 years of service to boxing as a referee and a judge, Roger Barnor says he is grateful to renowned boxing judge, Ataa Eddie Pappoe, J.E. Annan and World Boxing Organisation’s (WBO) supervisor in Africa, Samir Captan, for their immense support in ensuring he got to the top of the sport.
Being considered the leading boxing referee currently in the country, Roger Barnor who together with Ataa Eddie Pappoe remain the only five-star officials from Ghana, described his journey as a rollercoaster one, considering the numerous ups and downs throughout his career.
He noted that his love for the sport had taken him to places all over the world in the line of officiating and was glad to have chosen the path of being a boxing referee despite facing several challenges in his time as an official.
In 2013, Barnor was suspended by the Ghana Boxing Authority (GBA) for a controversial decision in a WBO Africa and WBA International super featherweight championship in Accra between Emmanuel Tagoe and Robald Pontilas at the Accra Sports Stadium a verdict which was later reversed.
Ghana’s Obodai Sai felt robbed in July, 2017 when Barnor stopped the fight in favour of Namibia’s Walter Kautodonkwa but the referee stood his grounds.
The most recent controversy was when he stopped a Emmanuel ‘Gameboy’ Tagoe bout with Fernando Saucedo in the 10th round, after the Argentine stood up from the canvas looking unhurt Barnor said he applied the rules of the sport after his coach had approached him during the bout.
Addressing criticisms in his career, he said he learnt so much from them and described them as means of strengthening him to apply new rules which he continues to learn at training conferences.
“All these are things that you must go through to be great in your field of work. I have learnt a lot throughout these criticisms and I can say it has made me a better referee,” he acknowledged.