DAVID KOTEI’s first professional fight was with Young Joe Lartey in August 1966. He knocked Lartey out in the sixth round. Then took on Abu Norgah and later Bob Cofie. He stooped both in the distance. In April 1969 he stopped Teddy Walker in the sixth round to snatch the national featherweight belt.
He made two defenses of the title and subsequently as many boxers were afraid of him, nobody was willing to fight him. Unable to get a shot at the world title, he began to feel frustrated. One day he bumped into Roy Ankrah in town and that landed him in Australia.
When I met Roy Ankrah that day, he told me he had just received a letter from Floyd Robertson’s former manager Sam Docherty who had moved to Australia, requesting him to send a number of good Ghanaian boxers to him. Good fortune, I said, and instantly offered to go.
In Australia within nine months of campaigning, in his division. His successes got him ranked as the twelfth contender to the Commonwealth title held by Bobby Dane. But fight famine again set in, as nobody was willing to fight him.
All attempts to get a shot at the Commonwealth and World titles proved elusive. Determined to have his ward get a shot at the world title, Sam Docherty moved his base to California. He again after a few fights in which he demolished his opponents in early rounds, nobody would fight him. Says D.K.:
In the USA they protect their boxers. No manager will want his ward to go down in ranking. There I met Bobby Chacon and Danny Lopez who were rated higher than me. All attempts to fight them failed.
Unable to get a shot at the world title, D.K. took council and returned home to try and get the government to support him to get a shot at the world title as Floyd Robertson did.
In Ghana, through the help of his senior brother, G. N. Kotei, then a senior official in the foreign ministry and Colonel (later Major-General) R. E. A. Kotei, a cousin who was then the Commissioner for Works and Housing, he managed to see General Ignatius Kutu Acheampong, the Head of State, for help.
The Head of State directed the formation of a syndicate. This was chaired by Justice D. F. Annan, an Appeal Court Judge. A number of sub-committees were set up with Captain Buckman, Eddie Hammond taking charge of Welfare, and Mowbray Elliot training. According to D. K. he, in turn, selected his own local trainer.
Just before the syndicate started work, Justice Annan called me one day and said I needed a local trainer. He mentioned that Floyd Robertson and Attuquaye Clottey, the most experienced boxers in the country, were in town and I stood a good chance of choosing one of them.
Reckoning with the fact that Floyd had made two unsuccessful attempts at the world title and actually came near winning the title in his fight, I said to myself if I go for him and in the end fail to win the world title, he may be accused of having bad omen. I, therefore, settled for Attuquaye, who was then handling the Akotoku Academy of Boxing.
To be sure that efforts at getting a shot at the world title were worthwhile, a number of “justify your claim” bouts were organized for D.K. He demolished his opponents in early rounds. Just around that time the ABU was created. Ghana was given the opportunity to present a candidate for the featherweight title version in the Union. On February 15, 1974, in Tunis, Tunisia, D.K. stopped Tahar Ben Hassan in just 72 seconds of the first round to capture the ABU belt. This victory paved the way to fight Evans Armstrong, the Scot Commonwealth holder, described by the press as “the father of the British crop of Champions”
At the Accra Sports Stadium on Saturday, December 7, 1974, D.K. 24, with a fight record of 33 fights (32 wins 9 by KOs and one loss) and Evans Armstrong, 31, with a record of 54 fights (39 wins-29 wins by KO, 1 draw, losses) stepped into the ring. For eight grueling rounds, they fearlessly pummelled one another.
Twice in the fight, the champion got the challenger momentarily dazed by a hefty upper-cut to his unguarded chin. The tenth round began on an equally fierce note. Two minutes, 23 seconds into the round, D.K. caught the champion with a combination of jabs, forcing Armstrong to the floor. Thus D.K became the third Ghanaian to win the Commonwealth belt after Roy Ankrah (1951-1952) and Floyd Klutei Robertson (1960-1967).
With the Commonwealth title in his grip, the world belt became his goal. This was what he wrestled from Ruben Olivares in Los Angeles on September 21, 1975, to become the first Ghanaian to win a world boxing title.
D.K. defended his title twice, stopping Fillipia Uehara in the twelfth round in Accra and Shige Fukuyama in the third round in Tokyo. His third defense was against Danny “Little Red” Lopez of the USA. All pre-tournament predictions pointed to a tough fight. Lopez, 24, with a record of 31 fights (29 won by KO and 2 losses) was reckoned to be a strong fighter. What made the night even more interesting was that both boxers had fought common opponents with inconsistent results. Lopez demolished Olivares in the seventh round in December 1975, but D.K. won on a split points decision in his fight with Olivares. While D.K had knocked out Fukuyama in the third round, Fukuyama had beaten Lopez to submission in Los Angeles on September 19, 1974.
Before the crowd of 122,000 spectators at the Accra Sports Stadium on November 6, 1979, the Utah-born challenger in the fifteen grueling rounds battered and out-boxed the champion and lived up to his pre-fight prediction of beating the hell out of the champion. After the fight, many papers criticized D.K. for his poor strategy. One paper wrote: While experts thought D.K. would take it cool and allow his opponent to wear himself down, he lost his cool and kept slugging with the sturdily and solidly built Red Indian American who proved expert in the game.
Other papers criticized D.K. for taking life easy after winning his title. D. K. Poison himself remained quiet and never uttered a word about the fight. In a response to critics he says:
I do not want to give excuses. But briefly, I lost to a better boxer. I can, however, say that from that fight I saved many boxers from being cheated. For from then onwards, the WBC made it mandatory to make urine tests of boxers after their fights in addition to the hitherto existing weigh-in session test. I lost the fight not because of poor strategy, for Lopez never hit me as hard as Evans Armstrong, whose fight I consider as the toughest in my career. On the contrary, I remember delivering some of my heftiest of punches in that fight. Many boxers, including lightweights, will have given up early in that fight.
Indeed in the sixth round, Lopez refused to answer the bell but was pushed into the ring by his trainer who I was later told was employed just for that fight. The real trainer I was told was killed not long after the fight apparently for failing to meet the contract fee for “a job well done” by the substitute trainer.
According to D.K., though Lopez did give him a rematch in 1978 he could not make it because of weight problems. “I shed over 50 kilos before and was really not myself in the bout”. After the abortive re-match, he moved up to the lightweight division but lack of support: impossible for him to advance.
I moved upwards in December 1978 and on June 4, 1979, the NRC/SMC government which had provided was overthrown. Thereafter, I never got the necessary financial me much backing and political backing which accompanied my journey towards capturing the featherweight belt. Coupled with a number of personal domestic problems, I was compelled to hand my gloves after a few fights in the lightweight division.
Retiring from the ring, D.K. began operating a building contracting firm, De Love Contractors. He also took to serious worshipping God and became a senior member of the Zetehil Church of Akweteman in Accra. D.K. believes very much in reincarnation and emphasizes that if he ever comes back into the world, he would devote his life to the service of God. To him, that is the only way to glory and salvation. He explains:
In the last days of my boxing career, I had many mishaps. In fact, I lost my father when preparing to fight for the ABU lightweight title. Ten months after, I lost my mother and she was followed in weeks by my brother. Around the same period, my house at South Labadi Estates got burnt; not even a pin was: salvaged.
When I moved into a new house at Teshie Nungua Estates, I was raided three times by thieves. My wife also deserted me leaving behind three daughters: Roberta, Henrietta, and Benedicta. In the midst of all these crises, I sought the causes and help. I finally heard a voice calling me on to the service of the Lord. Since giving myself to the Lord, I have found peace and comfort. To him, I would devote the rest of my life.