By Michael Benjamin
Even though he is Guyanese, Howard Eastman spent the majority of his boxing life practicing his trade in the United Kingdom. “The Battersea Bomber” as he is known was born 39 years ago, on December 8, 1970.
On March 6, 1994, Eastman ascended into the professional arena and had his hands lifted at the end of his first eight fights. For most Guyanese he would have risen to prominence after his historic encounter with William Joppy in November 2001 but ‘The Battersea Bomber’ was trading punches with Englishmen long before that fight. He demolished every fighter that dared to cross his path.
Howard Eastman was born and raised in New Amsterdam and moved to England with his family when he was about 15 years old. His brother Gilbert is also a boxer and at one time held the Southern Area title in England.
Mike Lewis wrote in the London Telegraph “Howard Eastman remains haunted by the night he let a world title slip from his grasp. Those that would have seen that bout must have experienced haunted memories of the Terrence Ali/Harry Arroyo bout when Ali, clearly on his way to becoming Guyana’s first world champion, became complacent and began to clown around in the latter stages of the fight. The knockout loss is now history.
Eastman had confessed to Lewis,” I think about the Joppy fight every day of my life.” However, he has never accepted that loss. “I don’t consider Joppy fight a defeat, it was a robbery. Even the American public was on my side,”
Anyone speaking with Eastman for the first time would most likely develop a feeling of disgust at his disposition. My first meeting with him took place in Berbice where I had gone to conduct an interview with him shortly after the Joppy match-up.
My first thoughts were that Eastman was a very private person who, despite his public activities, led a very private life. He came across as someone eccentric who would be very happy to be left alone. We have had many conversations since and I have had no reason to change my analysis.
Almost every boxer who would have consented to an interview that allowed his fans to scrutinize his life would have mentioned the ‘rags to riches’ syndrome. Eastman is no different. Support was something he never really enjoyed and he has oft been referred to as a wayward maverick.
Banished from his strict West Indian home in his late teens, Eastman, a cousin of former West Indies star batsman, Carl Hooper spent a couple of years living rough in East London.
While many boxers that become financially sound prefer expensive luxury cars, Eastman loves motor cycles. I remembered when I had traveled to the Ancient County to speak with him and had to wait for him at the Albion Sports Complex where he engaged in football as a part time activity. I heard the distinct roar of a high-powered motorcycle. It was Eastman. He had arrived at the ground atop a Honda 750CC machine.
I later learnt that Eastman had had a near fatal accident with a motorcycle sometime ago. I am not certain if he still retains his love for fast motorcycles.
In the interview with Mike Lewis, Eastman confided that he became interested in boxing at school. “I was bullied at school and one day I hit the bully back,” he said. Eastman said that the force of the blow sent the bully tumbling and after that day, he never bullied anyone again. According to Eastman that was the first sign that, he had a proclivity for the fistic sport.
However, Eastman also had his tribulations. “My father threw me out of the house when I was a teenager,” he said. He also said that he lived on the streets of London from age 16-18. “My family had just moved from Guyana to London and it was so cold out there, not like the warm climate of the Caribbean. I had no family, no one to go home to. I had nowhere to turn. Getting off the streets was my biggest battle.”
Indeed, Eastman had paid his dues and is now enjoying the rewards of years of sacrifice. Since his return to Guyana, he has had three epic encounters with ‘Sixhead’ Lewis, ‘Deadly’ Dalton and ‘The Lion’ Gilkes. After his bout with ‘The Lion’ last Saturday night last, Eastman had intimated that he was ready for all comers. “I am awaiting the promoters with any proposition that would help me get back to the top,” he said moments, after defeating Gilkes.
This may seem impossible for those unfamiliar with Eastman and his battles with life’s vicissitudes, but for someone that has followed his checkered career; his ambitions should not be dismissed as a dream.
This fighter once ranked as the number 2 middleweight by the World Boxing Council and number 5 by the International Boxing Federation. He is also a two time European middleweight champion with three successful title defenses. Eastman is also the former British middleweight champion.
As Andrew Lewis, Denny Dalton and recently, Leon Gilkes can attest, Eastman possesses great skills and movement, is a sharp and accurate puncher, is always in great condition and has great stamina. He just might win that world title that slipped through his hands when he fought William Joppy.
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