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Boxers need much more

Andi Thornhill

Boxers need much more

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It must be hard if you are an ambitious amateur boxer in Barbados, especially if you want to make it to the Olympics.
The president of the Amateur Boxing Association of Barbados, Anthony Jones, hit the nail on the head last week when he spoke to the media ahead of the annual Horace Philips Tournament, staged at Springer Memorial last Saturday night.
His forthright prognosis that we may not produce another Olympian anytime soon should be taken in the context in which it was intended and not seen as merely a gloom and doom pronouncement.
I don’t think he intended to discourage anyone but facts are facts.
Our Olympic hopefuls don’t ever get enough competition heading into the three mandatory qualifiers and are generally meeting opponents who would have had several more bouts and would naturally be better prepared physically and mentally.
As Jones pointed out, there are fewer Caribbean competitions now than a decade ago and it is very difficult to raise enough money to send boxers to compete in distant destinations.
The association and the boxers by extension are between the proverbial rock and a hard place.
It does, though, raise the critical question whether local authorities have done enough for the development of a sport which has always produced boxers that have made Barbados proud.
In the past we boasted about the accomplishments of pugilists like Edward “Yogi Bear” Neblett, Edward Pollard, Tyrone Evelyn, Palmerson Ifill, Leo Edwards, Marcus Thomas and Christopher “Shaka” Henry.
Of more recent vintage we celebrated the successes of Junior Greenidge, Anderson “Tootsie” Emmanuel and Shawn Terry Cox, who was the last Bajan amateur to qualify for the Olympics – at Sydney in 2000.
The aforementioned trio have been to major games and returned with silverware where the rest of the contingents returned empty-handed.
What has been amateur boxing’s reward? Glowing tributes to the individuals concerned and empty promises.
I know they deserve greater attention against the backdrop of what the boxers achieved with so little. You just need to go to the gym at the National Stadium and see the cramped, archaic conditions in which they train to understand what I am talking about.
That they have been able to distinguish themselves from such an environment speaks volumes about their skills, commitment and intestinal fortitude but more importantly it is stating emphatically that they deserve an upgrade based solely on meritocracy.
It is not something they should be begging for but it should be given in recognition of what they have achieved and will continue to. Their talent is abundant but they need greater infrastructural and monetary support to attain more.
I remember several years ago there were plans to build a facility in Oistins but it never got beyond talk while the boxers continued to take blows as local ambassadors all over the world.
I understand that because of economic reasons we cannot ably assist everyone who asks for help but there must be some who qualify for special treatment based on performance. Amateur boxing is a front-runner in this category by quite a few points.
One of the other ways the sport can improve is if the Government can employ some of our former stalwarts to train upcoming prospects. This would only enhance the commendable work being done by the industrious Gary Bowen at the moment.
Name recognition will help to inspire those who want to have a career in amateur boxing to get involved.
Give the sport the assistance it deserves and maybe in a good way we will make the president eat his words.
• Andi Thornhill is an experienced, award-winning freelance journalist.