If you are reading this, I have a suspicion that like me, you have spent some time knocking around BoxRec. One of my favorite “time wasters” on BoxRec is randomly seeing a name of a pugilist that is unlikely or fabulous.
This subject came up for me while I was reading the new book by promoter Russell Peltz, called Thirty Dollars and a Cut Eye, which shares the Philly fight game lifer’s time spent in this alternately loony and wondrous milieu.
Russell would use a guy named Burnell Scott, aka Nikita Tarhocker aka “Prince” Nikita Tarhocker.
“About a half dozen times,” Peltz told me on the phone. “I don’t know if he won any. No, wait, he did. A surprise, a first round knockout over Norman Farrell, ‘73.”
It was March 24, 1973, to be exact, at the Atlantic City Convention Center. Peltz, by the way, didn’t come up with the nickname. “It was on his business card,” Peltz recalls.
Anyway, “The Prince” had the right idea — why not dazzle and distract with a name suggesting royalty rather than have patrons dismiss you because you have a subpar record? (Burnell/Tarhocker, who died in 2015, ended his career in 1979 with a 8-31-1 record.)
The practice of using an alias when fighting took a hit in the later 70s, after the Don King/RING/US Boxing Championships scandal, which saw TV partner ABC get dragged through it because King set up a tourney with plenty of mediocre participants. They were sold as being more competent, or successful, than they really were, because co-conspirators fudged their records by adding on wins that were taken from air.
Maybe you didn’t know that Floyd Mayweather’s dad took part in the tourney, and was credited with a couple ersatz victories. Fudged records weren’t a matter for Woodward and Bernstein to investigate, but kickbacks to various parties involved in the black-eye affair were reported, and platform provider ABC was livid. So things tightened up, to a degree, and after the dust cleared, you’d be less likely to see someone using a ring alias.
“Alias” was what I was thinking when I saw a note that promoter Dmitriy Salita had signed a boxer from Ghana named “Prince Octopus Dzanie.” Exotic, I thought; I wonder how well he fights, and is his real name “Octopus?”
So I reached out to Salita, and asked about the Ghanaian, who, according to BoxRec, owns a 22-0 (18 KO) record. They list him as “Prince Dzanie.” Salita forwarded Octo some questions from me, and not long after, sent me the responses.
“The name Octopus is not a nickname for me but my birth name,” Dzanie said. “I got it from my granddad who was a boxer himself, he used ‘The Octopus’ as his ring name. But for me, he gave me that name from birth believing me to continue from where he left the sport.”
The 36-year-old super bantamweight grew in Adedenkpo, a suburb of Bukom, the same neighborhood where legend Azumah Nelson grew up. The fighter is one of six children, with two sisters and three brothers. Mom is a local food vendor and his late father was a civil servant.
“I started boxing when I was 10 years old, it’s a sport that my granddad had done before and he wanted me to continue, like I said earlier. I love the sport of boxing because in my community in my earlier years, there were lots of bullies, and so learning a fighting skill is for survival on the street.”
Dzanie has some ground to make up. While he repped Ghana at the 2008 Olympics, he didn’t go pro until 2012. And at 36, and never having fought outside of Ghana as a pro, his hill is steeper. But Dzanie seems unbothered by the theoretical impediments.
“I can and will become like Azumah or Ike Quartey and even more, because my vision is to unify the bantamweight division. With my resume now, I believe I have what it takes. I have gone through the mills already with good number of fights. I believe I’m ready for bigger fights that will get me a world title shot.”
Promoter Dmitry Salita told me that he’s working on Dzanie’s visa to get his U.S. debut set up soon.
“As I wish to unify the division, I want everyone that holds a belt at my division to know that he is just a regent,” Dzanie added in closing. “‘The Prince’ has arrived to take over the throne to rule. I won’t be a prince anymore, but the king.”