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Still hope for amateur boxing


Andi Thornhill

Still hope for amateur boxing

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If you?believed everything you heard or read, amateur boxing was knocked out at the last card staged at the Netball Stadium.
Saturday’s bouts at the Springer Memorial School’s auditorium will be a prime opportunity to get off the canvas and starting punching afresh – even above its weight. The Carlton Hope Memorial should provide a prime stage for redemption.
I honestly thought some of the comments made about the last card were too harsh. The negative feedback was triggered mainly because of a fracas in the ring after a boxer from St Lucia showed displeasure at the outcome of his fight.
The Amateur Boxing Association of Barbados (ABAB) should not have been held responsible for that but it was. I suppose accountability rests at the top when things go wrong.
Fact of the matter is that all parties must move on and try to keep the sport on a strong enough footing that the boxers would continue to make Barbados proud at major games.
In the past decade, pugilists such as Shawn Terry Cox, Junior Greenidge and Anderson Emmanuel won medals at major championships when athletes from other disciplines came back empty-handed.
So amateur boxing has credentials to be proud of and there’s emerging talent that can reach the same level as those mentioned before.
It is significant that the sport will be the first one in the ring, so to speak, to coincide with the new four-year cycle leading up to the 2016 Rio Olympics in Brazil.
We didn’t have a representative at the London Olympics, so Saturday’s card should have as its mission statement: “we are determined to be in Rio and from tonight we will be giving it our best shot to make that dream a reality”.
The boxers’ aspirations can only stand the chance of being realized if they fight regularly leading up to the big games. On almost every occasion we send boxers to compete, they face opponents who probably had more fights in a year than our charges had in their careers.
Automatically, that puts them at a big disadvantage in terms of experience and form. Credit must go to those who made the grade fighting against the odds.
Somehow, there’s likely to be talk that there’s never sufficient funding to support my proposal. But what is the point then of going to compete at the highest level knowing full well those that are on the team are very short on match preparation and are likely to struggle to bring home silverware?
We must stop going through the same process year after year.
In fact, I think if the claim is that funds are limited to support all of the disciplines, I believe if it comes down to a priority list, amateur boxing should be high on the list because of its success rate compared to other sports.
Other than that, the association must find more creative ways to raise money to assist the boxers. It is its responsibility at the end of the day to ensure the best boxers get the high-class competition they need to improve their craft and by extension improve their chance to excel.
I know that national coach Gary Bowen has done his best with limited resources and archaic facilities to bring the boxers to a certain level, but I still think there’s a way that some of the former outstanding boxers who are still active in training others should be brought on board to lend technical assistance to the overall programme.
No man is an island, and people such as Tyrone Downes, Edward Neblett and Christopher “Shaka” Henry should be employed to help Bowen, whose hands are full.
Those I have mentioned have the expertise. Downes is a former Commonwealth champion; Henry was once in the Top 10 of his weight division and Neblett once sparred with the legendary Sugar Ray Leonard.
The system must look to integrate people of their ilk into national programmes once their boxing days are over. This is a case where local knowledge should be utilized but isn’t in a constructive way.
I know there might be arguments whether these guys are eligible to coach amateurs having fought as professionals and that is utter rubbish.
There were several people who had connections with professional boxing who played major roles when we staged the World Championships two years ago.
Not only that, the governing body for the sport, The International Boxing Association (AIBA), has introduced The World Boxing Series which makes it possible for amateurs to make money. Our own Damian Sealy was part of it.
Boxers participating in these bouts compete without protective gear and are bare-chested unlike traditional amateur fighters. They fight as part of a franchise and can earn money.
In other words, the world view has changed and we cannot sit back and continue to do things the same old way to our own detriment.
I believe, as we usher in a new path for amateur boxing, we must also continue to pay attention to the women. I think they have as good a chance as the men to qualify for the next Olympics.
I know they have some way to go to prove themselves and earn respect, but once they are willing, they should be given the same level of support as the men.
I look forward to Saturday night to see positive indicators that we have the stock to enhance and continue the legacy of amateur boxing which has served Barbados well without getting its due.
And who better to push the Barbadians to a higher level in the Caribbean than their nemesis, Trinidad and Tobago?
I can hardly wait for the exchanges to begin!
• Andi Thornhill is an experienced award-winning freelance sports journalist.

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