Updated: Dec 18, 2019
If you're a boxing fan, then you have almost certainly become disillusioned or frustrated with certain aspects of the sport at some point. The inner workings of the boxing hierarchy can occasionally conspire to starve the sport's audience of the very best fights they crave. Often promoters and managers are at the centre of the problem, sometimes boxers themselves are the source of the problem.
Purse bids, money splits, location and venue, belts, rankings all form part of the process when scheduling whether fights are made or not. Kell Brook is a prime example having not fought since his victory over Zerafa in December last year.
How refreshing then that super lightweight operator Jeffrey Ofori 10-1-1 (3KOs) having already fought and beat an undefeated opponent in Liverpool on Friday of the previous week-unequivocally accepted an invitation to fight again the following Friday in MTK's Golden Contract format at The York Hall Bethnal Green.
Having tasted disappointment, suffering defeat at the hands of Alfie Price for the southern area title in late September, the 29-year-old was celebrating his return to winning ways against unbeaten Gerard Carroll on the undercard of Rocky Fielding's return to Merseyside when he heard the news that he could potentially land a spot in the tournament.
It's a testament to Ofori's strength of character and ambition that he never really considered anything other than accepting the opportunity after Lewis Benson was cruelly pulled from the competition after a second opinion on an eye injury signalled his exclusion. He explained, "They told me on Wednesday night that it's more than likely, so they'll give me a call on Thursday at 10."
Questioned on the obvious uncertainty and apprehension that many boxers would surely feel about fighting twice in a week, he resoundingly replied "Nah, do you know what it was, when I got the Wednesday call, I felt good, I felt strong so I was ready to fight".
"So, when he said it I was like yeah man, I was just hoping that it went through."
The other remarkable detail in fighting twice in close proximity, other than the exhaustive physical and mental commitment, is that most boxers would work hard in camp to cut weight and then rehydrate after weighing in, not to mention the post-fight indulgence that many enjoy.
So how did Ofori stay within the limit just a week later?
He explained "In Liverpool, I was feeling tempted to go out on a big splurge, I don't know why I didn't, I just found a nice Chinese place, started eating, it was getting late and I don't know why but I think as I'm getting older I'm becoming more sensible.
We had cars, everyone's like 'where we going, where we going' I was like you know what, after this food I'm alright."
The Golden Contract tournament consists of eight quarter-finalists who faced off against each other following a draw that was made by the fighters themselves after picking red and blue balls. The boxers who chose the red balls were the 'pickers' and the blue balls were the 'picked'. Despite some substitutions, the competition contained big names and plenty of pedigree including Irishman Tyrone McKenna, Ohara Davies and former European champion Mohamed Mimoune. The winner will receive a 2-year, five-fight contract worth 6 figures with promotional outfit MTK Global.
A fantastic opportunity and even though Ofori-who also works for a construction company that works on London Underground-admittedly knew very little about the format, he recognised the chance for exposure.
"All I knew was that it was going to be on Sky Sports and it was going to be on ESPN, I thought it's a chance for me to get my name out there."
The quarter-final fight between Jeffrey Ofori and Welshman Kieran Gething was an entertaining fight from what I witnessed at ringside. Not too many backward steps by either man, a willingness by both to force the issue, was clear from the first bell. Ofori naturally took a round to assess how he felt in terms of energy levels and although it wasn't too evident for the spectators in attendance to detect, he knew he wasn't at full force. "To be honest, the way I fought it wasn't ideal to go in for the kill, by round one I realised that the reserve tank wasn't there.
"Every time I went in to throw combinations, I could feel myself and I thought you know what it's a ten-round fight and I think in round two and round six I kind of went to see how much I could go and that's when I realised, you know what I'm fit but I'm not in my fight fit mode."
If that was the case, then it wasn't as clear to deduce from ringside as myself, and numerous ringside onlookers appeared to be scoring most rounds for the Tottenham man. What was maybe missing in terms of fitness and snap was more than made up for in rhythm and fluidity of movement with Ofori throwing plenty of hooks during the middle section of the fight.
After ten rounds the judges-to the dismay of many-scored the contest a draw and so the referee's scorecard was called upon as someone had to progress to the semi-finals. Ofori got the nod and was joined by Ohara Davies, Tyrone McKenna, and Mohamed Mimoune.
Despite being surprised about the decision, he didn't dwell on the draw being on his record, especially after a weekend of contentious scorecards including the Callum Smith John Ryder fight.
"I'm not even going to complain I'm just going to take the draw, I'm through to the next round and just keep going because what happened to John Ryder, man I don't know how that feels."
It's always interesting to find the connection between a fighter and their fans, there's a very real pressure on them to ensure tickets get sold and in the current climate, unless you are a social media guru, then there's a reliance on friends, family and in this case work colleagues.
Ofori clearly felt a huge amount of gratitude towards his colleagues and was keen to express his thanks.
"They've always been supportive, most of my ticket sales are all from work, to be honest".
"When I get into work and say I'm fighting, everybody the help they give me it's, I can't describe the words."
Attention now will turn to the semi-finals, where there's no doubt in his mind that he will be the man that the others will look to pick given the opportunity.
Pretty effusive in his praise for the other contenders, Ofori knows the extent of his mission and the quality he will face. Speaking about Mimoune he said "He came in knowing he's got more experience than anybody and I feel from the first 2 rounds he was trying to show that this is nothing for him.
The way he reacted (to the first-round knockdown) shows his level though, the reaction showed what he is capable of, which is good because it showed me what he's got in his arsenal."
If he did learn something from Mimoune, then he probably didn't glean the same kind of valuable knowledge and detail from Tyrone McKenna who clinically outpointed Mikey Sakyi. "Tyrone McKenna breezed through his fight, very clever, he busts his nose he's thinking no point in getting involved, get through the next round with no cuts, no injuries, no one knows what I'm capable of, so his performance on the cleverness side was the right thing to do."
On another potential semi-final opponent, Ohara Davies, Ofori said: "He was just too big for Yoon."
Despite a very easy going and affable character to engage with, Ofori has an underlying confidence and a certainty about his own work and whether he can go all the way will be debated I'm sure, but someone who will fight at the notice that was given to him, with that amount of desire and self-belief is a dangerous individual for anyone to face.
It seems fitting to end with a respectful quote from a man who understands the magnitude of his task, yet fears nobody. He told me "Whoever gets their ball first is gonna pick me, so I'm just prepared for anyone."