For those growing up in Jamestown, Accra’s oldest and most densely populated neighbourhood, boxing is a way of life.
A succession of world champions, including the legendary Azumah Nelson, considered by many to be the greatest African boxer of all time, and current IBF lightweight champion Richard Commey, grew up and learned their trade here, and for many young locals the dream is to follow in their footsteps.
French social documentary and portrait photographer Antoine Jonquiere was visiting the area last year, when he stumbled across one of its many boxing gyms.
“I remember hearing the sounds of the boxers training, the vibrations on the floor were very strong so I entered and I saw the boys of all ages…” he says. Instantly captivated by the scene in front of him, his interest deepened after speaking to the boys coach, who told him of the areas unique boxing heritage.
He would go on to visit numerous gyms in Jamestown and nearby Usshertown over a two month period, photographing young fighters as they trained in the intense heat, often for up to six hours a day.
Boxing is an immensely grueling sport, one that has always attracted those from the toughest backgrounds, and, despite the recent economic upturn in the country, the area remains one of Accra’s poorest with its proximity to newly-built, high-rise office complexes highlighting the extreme inequality that still exists there. For many of the young men pictured, this isn’t merely a sport, it provides them with hope, and a unique opportunity to escape a life of poverty and unemployment. This is reflected in the unwavering dedication they show, something Antoine has managed to capture beautifully in the series.
“I think what links all these images is the the complete love and respect the people show for the sport. It is a serious thing here, it is not just a game…they don’t do it just for fun, they do it out of complete passion”
The full series, along with some of Antoine’s other projects can be viewed on his website.