Aug 31, 2008 News
By Michael Benjamin
I was born to be a boxer, even though I did not immediately know it. I loved to fight. Of course, in my teenaged days, you engaged in verbal wars. If you could not solve your differences amicably, someone would place a small stone in his/her palm and place it in front of the warring factions while chanting, ‘bite him Peter, bite him Paul.’ Now, the person bold enough to hit that stone out of the agitator’s hand would be the one to start the fight. We fought until someone surrendered. If you wanted to surrender you simply said so, but if your neck was in a vice and you were unable to shout ‘surrender,’ you simply hit the ground three times — the signal that you had accepted defeat — and that was the end of that.
Today, things have changed drastically. Folks no longer solve problems with small bricks and insidious chants. At the first sign of controversy, the affected (or should that be infected) person reaches to his waist and ‘gun shot a lick.’
A few days ago, while driving along Bent Street, my car came into contact with another. Now, I really believed that I was in the right, but the driver of the other car, a white Toyota Carina, remained adamant that I had infringed the traffic laws and collided with him. In instances such as these, my insurance agent advised that I immediately report the matter and refrain from taking the responsibility. I decided to follow such advice.
I then informed the driver of the other vehicle that I was calling the police. He became angry and arrogant, and spewed the vilest remarks at me. “I know ’bout three things: jail, the burial ground, and Sandy’s Funeral Parlour!” he blurted. Now, I had reason to believe that he was armed, so instead of agitating the situation, I decided to try another ploy. “Okay, let’s go to my man in Tucville and have him check out your damages. I will foot the bill.” Obviously satisfied with this arrangement, the young man agreed.
I exited Bent Street through Hardina Street and turned West into Durban Street. The young man became suspicious, because I had turned in the opposite direction to our agreement. He suddenly realized that something was amiss and sped behind me. The traffic lights at the junction of Louisa Road and Durban Street signalled red, and I was forced to stop. The angry driver caught up with me, and in the vilest language he enquired where I was going. I looked him straight in the eye and replied, “I am going to the Brickdam Police Station to make a report.” By then the lights had signalled green and I sped away. In my rearview mirror, I noticed that the other car had followed me up to John Street and suddenly swung south into Norton Street. I reached the Brickdam Police Station in record time, and made a report. I also furnished the investigating officer with the number of the other vehicle. He advised that I return to the station the following morning.
Despite my busy schedule, I went to the station as arranged. The officer was extremely courteous, and together we visited the License and Revenue Department on Princes Street to check out the number of the car driven by the errant driver. The officer found the number, checked it out and provided me with the details. It was the number of a mini bus that was no longer in operation. Immediately, I realized why the driver was not anxious to accompany me to the police station.
Hardly anyone is discussing conflict resolution these days. As a boy, if I had a difference, I was required to resolve the issue through discussion. The alternative solution was to engage in fistic warfare in the presence of an adult. The winner became the hero, not to be disrespected anymore, while the loser licked his wounds and faded into oblivion.
As a schoolboy, I genuinely loved to fight. Whenever school was dismissed, I could always be found on the large field aback the school engaged in a fight to prove some point or the other. I won some and lost some, but I was never deterred from a challenge.
Then I met Cliff Anderson. He was a small, dumpy, unassuming fellow who spoke so quietly that you had to strain to hear his voice. One day, after I had been involved in a fight, he approached me and queried why I loved fighting so much. To this day, that has been the hardest question anyone has ever asked me. I realized that I merely fought for the sake of fighting. Maybe that was the first sign that I had the proclivity to box.
Cliff spoke with me in his quiet, unassuming way. He advised me to try my hand at boxing, a game he referred to as “highly scientific.” I could agree with that. It is high science to take a perfectly carved face and methodically distort it with your bare hands without the humbug of explaining to a magistrate why you did it.
I followed Cliff’s advice, and subsequently became a member of the Cliff Anderson Boxing Gym, located first in the auditorium of the North Ruimveldt Multilateral School, and later at the East Ruimveldt Secondary School, known as ‘Back School.’
Cliff was a shrewd teacher. He taught practical lessons. He taught me the importance of self respect. From him I learnt discipline and self control. One afternoon he instructed that I spar with the boxers in the light/flyweight and the flyweight divisions. I was a featherweight and, as such, I enjoyed those sessions immensely, because, as the stronger boxer, I had a field day doing a number on them. Then Cliff would tell me to spar with the boxers in the welterweight and light/middleweight divisions. Of course, they punched me silly. Cliff hadn’t to teach me the wisdom of his ploys. I wanted mercy, and so I had to show mercy. After my first experience with the big boys, I boxed with some restraint whenever I sparred with the youngsters. I am not certain how these two incidents correlated, but there were drastic changes when I sparred with the big boys. They were more compassionate to me, as I was with the youngsters. Without too much fluster, Cliff had taught me an important lesson—if you want mercy, you must be prepared to show mercy. Boxing is indeed a microcosm of life.
Recently, I visited my alma mater and suggested the reintroduction of boxing in the schools. One of the administrators told me that the Ministry of Education is reluctant to have boxing on the curriculum because of its dangers. Yes, I agree that boxing is a dangerous sport, but football and cricket also have dangers. When I compare my cricketing days with my boxing endeavours, I must admit that the hardest blow that I have received came from a blow to the eye from a cricket ball. So where is the validity of that argument?
Upon attaining a certain age, youngsters need an outlet for their energies. Boxing can provide that outlet. Boxing is not just war. It is disciplined war. The individual is confined to rules and regulations.
Today, we are witnessing an upsurge in youth criminology. The youths need to inculcate discipline, restraint and self control. Boxing has done it for me and countless others, yet our policy makers fail to see the wisdom in sport investment as the answer to delinquency and child criminology.
Somehow, our legislators are not interested in building gyms and providing adequate sports facilities to counteract incidences of crime. Instead of building gyms and sports facilities, there is talk of building larger penal institutions and purchasing more high-powered weapons. These things cause hundreds of millions of dollars, and yet the problem remains with us.
A pair of boxing gloves costs less than ten thousand dollars, but just look at the return it brings! This is indeed something to chew on as we reflect on the deaths of ‘Chung Boy,’ ‘Skinny’ and the countless other juveniles that might have been saved, not to mention the lives of their victims, if our decision makers had taken a fraction of the funds invested in high-powered rifles and put it into academies and sporting institutions. Maybe it is not too late.
It is time for our administrators to stop being penny wise and pound foolish.
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