The boy they called "Goub" fought from the moment he arrived from Guinea, West Africa, at age 11 until the night of April 27, when he was shot and nearly gutted with a knife on an Olney playground.

At first, it was survival. "They picked on him," says stepmother Tondolea Wiggins, "because he didn't speak English." Still, his biological mother in Africa and his father in Philadelphia believed Yagouba and younger brother Ibrahim would have better lives here.

But the 5-foot, 6-inch youth was such a talented fighter that, long after he'd learned English, gotten good grades, and made friends, he couldn't seem to stop fighting. An uncle, who asked not to be named, believes there were those who may not have wanted him to stop.

"Yagouba was used," he says, "because he was a good fighter. It was his way of being accepted. ... He should have been in a boxing ring somewhere with a trainer."

Instead, he was killed by an assailant believed to be exacting revenge for an earlier beating at Yagouba's hands. On Sunday, before Yagouba's body was sent back to Africa - and to a mother who regrets sending her sons to America - Wiggins and the boy's father, Mamadou Bah, held a memorial service. They felt strongly that his friends needed closure.

The invitation, distributed at Goub's school, asked parents to attend with their children, "to keep the peace." The program noted his love of mac 'n' cheese and propensity for motion sickness. His friends remember his spirit.

"He had a knack," says LaTia Williams, 15, "for making me happy just by seeing him smile."

"Yabouba was really loved by everybody," says Wiggins. "But he had to fight from beginning to end." Her message to the kids:

"Don't do anything crazy. Protect yourselves and love each other and pull together. And don't hurt somebody because they come from another country."

Contact staff photographer April Saul at 215-854-2872 or