Ghanian champion has passion for our juniors
BOXING: The work rate and experience of James Armah is infectious at the Grafton Amateur Boxing Club.
The two-time Commonwealth champion known in the ring as 'Bukom Fire' has spent every afternoon at the club since his arrival in Grafton one month ago and the difference he has made is palpable.
Growing up on what he calls the "mean streets" of Ghana in a small community called Bukom - the home town of arguably the best ever African boxer Azumah Nelson - Armah learnt from an early age it was either fight or perish.
Now, after a career including 20 wins from 24 fights, Armah wants to use his more than two decade in-ring experience and his childhood on the streets to guide the next generation of Grafton fighters.
"Boxing is my life. That is what I have been doing since I was a young boy, it is my passion," Armah told The Daily Examiner. "I liked to fight when I was a boy on the streets of Ghana. I was always fighting.
"The area that I came from was a very tough neighbourhood and you had to fight to survive. If not, people saw you as weak and they would bully you, and I didn't want to be bullied.
"When I grew up my mother, she had no money so I had to do my own thing just to survive. I was alone growing up."
It was a chance encounter that gave Armah his break into the sport when a local trainer spotted him scrapping on the streets of Bookam. A prospective football star in Ghana, it was a tough decision for Armah to move into the gym, but one he has not looked back on since.
"As soon as I started training in the ring I loved it, I got in to the national team and I was travelling everywhere," he said.
"(Through boxing) I learned how to talk to people and I learned to cope with all different characters. People are all different, and learning how to deal and communicate with people is very important - boxing gave that to me."
After marrying long-term partner Natalie Graham, the pair decided to relocate back to where she grew up on the North Coast to be closer to family she has still living in Grafton.
The move has opened Armah's eyes to a school of budding boxing champions at the amateur club that the former African champion has instantly grown a passion for.
"I love the kids, it is my passion to train all the kids," he said. "Every time that I am training them and I see they have picked up on what I have been teaching them it makes me very happy. It brings me a great joy.
"They are learning and they are doing it. They have been making wild improvements. The way I talk to them, they love it and they can understand what I am teaching to them.
"I want them to put Grafton on the Australian boxing map, actually, on the world map. I think together we can do it because they are great talents. I have much faith in them."
While Armah wants to stay in Grafton to build the amateur club to new heights, it has not been an easy trek for the Ghanian native with job opportunities in the region very limited.
"I want to stay here, but I don't have a job in Grafton, and if I can't find one here I will have to move to where I can find work," he said.
"I would prefer to stay here with the club and with these boys. I want to see them become world champions and know I had a part in helping the beginning of their career."
Following the success of last year's Grafton Amateur Fight Night at the Clarence River Jockey Club, Grafton Amateur Boxing Club is set to double up this year with two live and local events. The first is set to take place at the CRJC on Saturday, April 22 while the second one will be on Saturday, August 26.