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A THORNY ISSUE: Still a lot of punch in boxing

ANDI THORNHILL, [email protected]

A THORNY ISSUE: Still a lot of punch in boxing

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I AM GLAD that I was commissioned to cover the Carlton Hope/Lionel Hall Memorial Boxing Tournament last Saturday.

I was able to guage what is really happening in local amateur boxing after a lengthy period of dormancy and belly aching by Barbados Boxing Association president Anthony Jones a fortnight ago about the difficulties facing the sport.

My conclusion is that there is plenty of life left in amateur boxing if only from the perspective of the excitement of the nine bouts and the enthusiasm shown by the big crowd, on a night when it was competing with the final of a very popular road tennis tournament.

There was such a frenzy created around the Springer Memorial Auditorium from the pugilistic exchanges that I can hardly wait for the Caribbean Championships to start on December 6.

Who wouldn’t pay to see Guyanese hard-hitting bantamweight Clairmont Gibson again or the highly skilled local middleweight pair of Cabral Barriteau-Foster and Ision Fraser?

It surely whetted my appetite and the others to see the Caribbean’s best in another six weeks.

The point I’m getting at is that there’s nothing wrong with the talent base, but a lot of help is needed in terms of creating strong structures to make it work for the boxers in respect of their development.

Plenty of credit also has to be given to the coaches who work so hard to get the boxers to a respectable and competitive level.Honestly, that has been a norm dating back to the days of someone like Sam King through to Gary Bowen and others of this era.

A hard-working administrator like Kathy Harper-Hall can never be praised too highly because people like her provide the glue that keeps organisations together through thick and thin. Their mission is to keep the youth constructively engaged in something they are passionate about and society can never pay for that in dollars and cents. Just seeing Harper-Hall putting out chairs for Saturday’s card was inspirational.

She might be the benchmark, but there are others with a huge level of commitment to the sport and their efforts need greater support from the powers that be and the wider society to ensure its development in the manner and with the dignity it deserves.

Doesn’t get respect

For some unknown reason, amateur boxing doesn’t get the respect and attention it craves, while we constantly see tremendous efforts being made to patronise other disciplines which do not come close to challenging the returns and glory it has brought this country.

This can be very frustrating to all stakeholders, that’s why I empathised with Jones when he vented, all but for his unwarranted attack on the media, who I know have been very supportive of the sport.

That was his breaking point as he rightfully pleaded for the help amateur boxing so badly needs.

They are not asking for a free lunch, they have paid their dues, and more must be done to reciprocate.

I suspect, as is the norm when we are about to stage a major tournament, several people will emerge from the wood work talking pretty and making promises they probably won’t keep for the forthcoming Caribbean Championships. They will conveniently disappear after until the next Kodak moment comes, possibly years after.

How can we forget the glorious things that were said when we successfully hosted the women’s world championship in 2010? It merely validated that old adage that talk is cheap.

Why hasn’t there been a greater effort to upgrade the training facilities for boxing at the National Stadium?

Why has the annual stipend from the National Sports Council remained at the same level for donkey’s years when there is a clear case for an increase based on merit?

Like it or not, some organisations appear to be more equal than others based more on demographics than results. That has to change in order to keep more youth in sport and to encourage hundreds more to become involved. It has to change also to make selfless administrators feel that their work is meaningful and that their sacrifices aren’t in vain.

Over the years it has been an open secret that some of them “pull their own pockets” to help sustain various sports. We can’t ever repay that kind of loyalty to those cut from that cloth. Sometimes some people make them feel they are doing them a favour when it is the other way round.

Amateur boxing is still evolving at a very slow pace and it needs more help from the state in particular to safeguard its future.

That assistance will come for sure for the Caribbean Championships but it’s the after care from those in authority which has proven to be the sport’s Achilles heel in the past.

Saturday’s card was ultimate proof that this needs to change as a matter of policy.

• Andi Thornhill is a veteran sports journalist.