Remembering the 'Pocket Battleship' Francis Ampofo
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Francis Ampofo's record never showed just how good he was but it's time to remember his story.
Ampofo, who was born on June, 5, 1967 in Kumasi, the capital city of the Ashanti region in southern Ghana and emigrated to the Bethnal Green area as a youngster. He gravitated to the Lion Club in Pitfield Street, Hoxton and to its boxing section in particular.
Overall he did not have a distinguished amateur career, but he did reach the English flyweight semi-finals of the ABA championships in 1989, where he was outpointed by the legendary John Lyon (Greenall St Helens), who at that stage of his career had won seven national Senior ABA titles.
Lyon went on to win the flyweight crown again that year. His final national title tally recorded four light-flyweight crowns and four flyweight championship triumphs.
Lyon still holds the record for the most male ABA Senior title successes in the history of amateur boxing in these islands.
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Ampofo decided to join the professional ranks with Barry Hearn’s Matchroom organisation and made his debut in January 1990 at the York Hall, Bethnal Green, outpointing Neil Parry in a six rounder.
There was a very good crop of British flyweights around in those days and in his next contest in March 1990, Ampofo lost on points to Welsh prospect Robbie Regan in another six rounder, again at the York Hall.
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Five contests later, in September 1991, he was British flyweight champion. Robbie Regan was stopped in the eleventh round of a scheduled twelve, due to a bad cut over the left eye (requiring 30 stitches) following a clash of heads.
Three months later, Regan won his title back with a relatively comfortable 118-116.5 points success over Ampofo. At this point it is worth pointing out that in his 28-fight paid career, Ampofo participated in 16 title contests of one description or another; a truly fantastic number and one I have been unable to find a match for with any degree of certainty for a British boxer of his weight.
Three contests later, Ampofo was British flyweight champion once more, comfortably outpointing Scotland’s James Drummond 118.5 –116 to win the vacant belt in December 1992 in Grosvenor House, Mayfair.
The vacant Commonwealth flyweight crown was acquired in June 1993 and a year later in June 1994, Francis met South African Jake Matlala for the latter’s WBO crown at the York Hall.
Ampofo retired in the ninth round of a scheduled twelve rounder, with the champion clearly in the ascendancy.
Ampofo was short of stature at a mere 5 feet 1.5 inches tall. Matlala, a mere 4ft 10, is still the shortest world champion on record.
Then the British title was retained with a stoppage victory over Drummond (cut left eyebrow) in the third round and Darren Fifield was halted in two rounds as the British and Commonwealth belts were retained.
In March 1996, South African Daniel Ward took Ampofo’s Commonwealth title with a twelfth and final round knockout and title distress continued in April 1997 when Vince Feeney outpointed Francis for the vacant Southern Area bantamweight championship.
Worse was to follow in October 1997 when Merseysider Paul Lloyd squeezed home via a 118-117.5 points verdict over Ampofo for the Commonwealth belt and the vacant British bantamweight crown.
Ampofo’s last title success came in January 1999 when he won the very lightly regarded IBO Inter-Continental bantamweight title with a ninth round stoppage of Scotland’ Shaun Anderson in Glasgow. Thereafter it was all downhill with five championship losses on the spin.
There were points losses to Noel Wilders and then Ady Lewis for the vacant British bantamweight crown and the vacant British and Commonwealth bantamweight titles respectively.
Then came a three points losses in WBU bantamweight clashes at the hands of Johnny Armour, all close bouts all of which went in the favour of the Chatham man.
First Armour won a unanimous points contest; then a points win which would have been regarded as a majority draw in every other governing body’s championship code except the WBU which awarded the win to Armour.
Their third and final encounter in September 2002 also went to Armour, this time by a majority decision - two scores of 115-111 to him and a tied 113-113. So Ampofo went into retirement with a final ring tally of 17 victories (12 inside) and 11 losses (two inside), campaigning for around twelve years.
Overall his final ring record probably did not really do him full justice, but he was both British and Commonwealth champion twice and that's a great achievement in any fighter’s book. He held the British flyweight crown between 1991 and 1994 and the Commonwealth flyweight honours between 1993 and 1995.