By Michael Benjamin
As the boxers spotlighted for possible selection at the 2011 England Olympics continue to hone their skills in the National Park from 05:00hrs, and at the National Gymnasium from 16:00hrs daily, boxing promoter Keith Bazilio is confident that the local pugilists can break the gold medal jinx provided they receive the requisite support.
The top promoter who heads the People Syndicate Promotions group is adamant that local pugilists possess the talent but are unable to convert this variable into lucrative medals at the Olympics because of a paucity of adequate incentives.
“Sport is serious business and all over the world Governments are employing strategies to garner the best from their sportsmen and women,” posits Bazilio.
He further explained that incentives serve as a motivational factor that helps to push the athlete onward.
“When the athlete reaches to that point where he feels that he is at the end of the line, an incentive should be dangling before him to serve as the motivational factor to push him onwards,” Bazilio elaborated.
The veteran promoter suggests the immediate employment of this strategy as the various aspirants prepare for Olympics duty.
He also feels that the hard work of the coaches and other utility staff in the various gyms should be acknowledged in a tangible way since this group, despite working behind the scene, adds viability to the pugilists’ preparation.
These include the coaches and advisors among other support staff. “When boxers are rewarded for their efforts, they feel constrained to go the extra mile,” said Bazilio.
The flip side of the coin is that when their efforts are ignored the boxers become disenchanted and their performances drop below par.
Bazilio is also peeved at the lax attitude demonstrated by the government and even the governing sports bodies towards international achievements of local pugilists. He cited the achievement of Michael Anthony Parris who managed to win a bronze medal at the 1980 Moscow Olympics.
Bazilio noted that even after 31 years no other local sportsperson from any other discipline has been able to eclipse or even emulate the feat. “When Michael (Parris) won that medal the nation was extremely delighted but now 31 years later the thrill of the moment has dissipated and it seems as though the achievement has since been rendered inconsequential,” noted Bazilio.
He applauded the efforts of the executives of the Guyana Amateur Boxing Association (GABA) when they recently rechristened the National Open Boxing tournament in honour of the Olympic medalist.
However, Bazilio believes that the gesture alone was not compensatory when one notes that the record still stands after so many years. “That was indeed a thoughtful gesture but in the end one wonders whether the act could not have been more noteworthy; a little more substantial,” suggests Bazilio.
He further intimated that he is currently mulling ways to revive the moment while drumming up adequate compensation for the boxing stalwart. “We are preparing to contest in another Olympic Games and hope to win a lucrative medal but we fail to acknowledge the only one procured so far,” explained Bazilio.
When Andrew ‘Sixhead’ Lewis knocked out James Page to become Guyana’s first world champion, Government officials spared no effort to acknowledge the feat.
The corporate community also threw in their lot and almost everyone was tripping over to adequately compensate the former World Boxing Association (WBA) welterweight king. Shortly afterwards, Gwendolyn ‘Stealth Bomber’ O’Neil emulated Lewis and defeated Kathy Rivers to become the second boxer and the first woman to win the prestigious prize. Both ambassadors were rewarded with house lots and duty free concessions for motor vehicles.
Two other boxers, Vivian Harris and Wayne Braithwaite were similarly rewarded after winning world titles from Diosbelys Hurtado and Vincenzo Cantatore respectively.
The ‘Sixhead’ Lewis’ victory opened the floodgates and after the last two mentioned boxers had won similar accolades the government closed up shop. Thereafter Gary St. Clair and Shondell Alfred were ignored after defeating respective world beaters to become world champions.
Bazilio believes that such acts of doling out selective rewards can be counterproductive as the boxers are less constrained to reach for lofty goals when their efforts hardly matter.
However, he admits that the boxers ought to shoulder some of the blame.
“I agree that a few of our boxers might have triggered the current responses from government officials in regards to compensatory gestures but I am not anxious to support the ‘Peter pays for Paul’ tact,” said Bazilio.
He posited that each case should be treated on its merit. “If a boxer breeches the statutes of the government’s duty free gesture, he must be punished individually; it is unfair and unreasonable to punish another boxer because his/her colleague might have messed up,” exhorted Bazilio.
The promoter next turned his attention to visa matters. He is disturbed that many local boxers are robbed of an opportunity to realize their full potential because they are unable to procure the requisite visa to box in the United States of America or even for stopovers to other countries.
“This is indeed a sore issue and unless local administrators devise a way around this problem boxers would become frustrated and we will lose good talent,” he explains.
He noted that the problem is not attributed to local pugilists alone as athletes all over the world have been known to defect to the USA.
Bazilio feels that local administrators could minimize the instances of refusal by screening sports representatives while approaching authorities of the US Embassy well in advance of international tournaments requiring visas.
He noted that the Americans place the onus on applicants to provide proof of their exit from the USA within the statutes of the visa. “The Americans are doing their job; it’s the local authorities that must now demonstrate the competence of their respective offices,” said Bazilio.
He also feels that local boxers owe it to themselves to retain the type of persona that endorses their ambassadorial statuses while increasing their chances of procuring visas.
Bazilio admits that the issue of development encompasses much more than his aforementioned views but stated that such strategies can open the door. He also feels that with intense and frequent discussion, other techniques towards the boxers’ advancement could be applied.
For now he remains adamant that a viable reward scheme is the answer to a change of fortunes of local pugilists and possibly attaining that coveted Olympics gold medal.
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