Former bantamweight world titleholder Alfred Kotey died of an undisclosed illness in the Bronx, New York, on Tuesday. He was 52.
Kotey, who was born in Bukom, Ghana, on June 3, 1968, represented his country in the 1988 Seoul Olympics and in 1994 became Ghana’s fifth world champion when he won a unanimous decision over Puerto Rico’s Rafael Del Valle to claim the WBO bantamweight world title at London’s famed York Hall.
“The WBO family is deeply saddened by the passing of the great Alfred Kotey, the organization's first world champion from Ghana,” the WBO said in a statement. “Kotey defeated Rafael Del Valle to win the bantam crown on July 30th, 1994. May he rest in peace.”
Known as “The Cobra,” Kotey (26-16-1, 17 KOs) turned professional in 1988 and after seven fights, including winning the Commonwealth title in his sixth bout, took his career on the road. He traveled for one fight to the United Kingdom followed by his next nine fights in a row in the United States, including seven at the famed Blue Horizon in Philadelphia.
The Blue Horizon is where he suffered his first loss via split decision to Julio Cesar Borboa in 1992, but two fights later he shot to fame in his homeland when he outpointed Del Valle to take his 118-pound world title.
Kotey made two successful defenses, both in the United Kingdom, where he outpointed Armando Castro in 1994 and then knocked out Drew Docherty in the fourth round in 1995.
In his third defense, Kotey lost the belt by unanimous decision to Daniel Jimenez, of Puerto Rico, in October 1995, also in the U.K.
After the title loss, Kotey moved up to junior featherweight and beyond but was unable to replicate the success he had in the bantamweight division, and he became a steppingstone opponent with a name.
He would go on to face several fighters who would go on to win world titles, including decision losses to Guty Espadas Jr. at junior featherweight, Juan Manuel Marquez at featherweight, Orlando Salido at junior lightweight and Acelino “Popo” Freitas at lightweight.
Kotey also dropped eight-round decisions to former welterweight titleholders Victor Ortiz and Anthony Peterson when they were prospects on the rise and former longtime welterweight contender Antonio Diaz.
Including his loss to Freitas in 2001, Kotey finished his career by going just 2-9 over his final 11 fights before retiring after a third-round knockout loss to Fredrick Lawson in 2012.
Despite the late-career swoon, Kotey is one of nine boxers from Ghana to win professional world titles, including International Boxing Hall of Famer Azumah Nelson, Ike Quartey, DK Poison, Nana Yaw Konadu, Joseph Agbeko, Joshua Clottey, Isaac Dogboe and Richard Commey.
Commey paid tribute to his countryman after hearing about his passing.
“Really sorry to hear of the passing of our former world champion Alfred Kotey,” former lightweight world titlist Commey wrote on social media. “He was one of those who paved the way for other Ghanaian boxers like myself to become world champions. He will be sorely missed. My deepest condolences to his family and may he rest in peace.”
The WBC also offered its condolences on the death of Kotey, who won the organization’s international junior featherweight title by split decision over Freddy Cruz in 1995 in Kotey’s first fight after losing his bantamweight world title.
“The World Boxing Council family mourns the death of Ghanaian Alfred Kotey,” the WBC said in a statement. “The WBC and its president Mauricio Sulaiman join in prayers with Alfred’s family and friends during this difficult and sad time. Rest in peace, champ.”
Dan Rafael was ESPN.com's senior boxing writer for fifteen years, and covered the sport for five years at USA Today. He was the 2013 BWAA Nat Fleischer Award winner for excellence in boxing journalism.