Ike Quartey was a beast of a fighter; he was also a heck of a lot of fun to watch. “Bazooka,” one of a number of great fighters to come out of Accra, Ghana, had a superb left jab, a granite chin, a clever defense, pulverizing punching power, and a desire to take on the best. After a good amateur career, with Ike going 50-4 and representing Ghana at the Seoul Olympics, Quartey went pro.

After romping to 11-0(11), Quartey, initially a 140-pounder, relocated to France, where he was given a shot at the WBA welterweight title in June 1994. It was 30 years ago today when Quartey defeated Crisanto Espana in a great fight. Espana, who had stopped a faded Meldrick Taylor to take the WBA belt (this fight taking place on the Lennox Lewis-Razor Ruddock card in London in October 1992), was a good fighter, and he pushed Quartey hard.

Close on all three cards going into the 11th round, the fight was ended in violent fashion by Quartey. Ike hurt Espana at the start of the round and he never let him off the hook. Espana was held up by the ropes and was given a standing count, before Quartey finished him off with a big right hand.

Quartey had arrived, and he would go on to notch up an impressive seven title defenses – before he engaged in his very first super-fight. Enter Oscar De La Hoya. The two met in a WBC title showdown in February of 1999 (Ike had been stripped of his WBA belt due to inactivity that was brought about by personal issues), and to this day, De La Hoya says Quartey hit him harder than anyone else and that the fight left him in bed for days afterward. Both men hit the mat in a thriller, with De La Hoya getting the ever so close split decision win. What a shame these two never fought a second time.

For Quartey, it was a move up to 154, and another decision loss, this to Fernando Vargas in April of 2000, this some 14 months after the De La Hoya defeat. Inactivity really did do a disservice to Quartey’s career, and it would have been great if he had been able to stay active. Instead, Quartey was absent from the ring for five years after the IBF title fight loss to Vargas. Comeback fights with Verno Phillips and Carlos Bojorquez resulted in victory, while Quartey was beaten by Vernon Forrest (via hugely controversial decision) and by Winky Wright, this in his final fight.

Quartey came close to greatness but he ultimately fell short. How different things would have been had Quartey been awarded the decision in the De La Hoya fight. Nevertheless, Quartey put his mark on the sport, with him joining other Ghanaian greats such as Azumah Nelson, fighters who are revered to this day.

Quartey had one of the best jabs in the history of the welterweight division, and he also had crunching power and sheer, inner toughness. It was always something special watching Quartey go to work in a big fight. Never stopped, Quartey finished with a fine 37-4-1 (31) record. Quartey lost the biggest fight of his career, but Ike proved his mettle and then some during his career.

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