Opines that ProAm cards are good for boxers
By Michael Benjamin
Ever since the inauguration of the monthly Friday Night Fights, staged on the last Friday of each month, local boxers seem to have benefitted immensely. Several of these pugilists have won prestigious titles ranging from local accolades to Caribbean Boxing Federation (CABOFE) belts. The organizers maintain that the acquisition of such accolades has been a fillip to their, sometimes fledgling, and to an extent, stifled careers.
Even as the pundits acknowledge the all round strides made by the boxers and associated affiliates since the inauguration of the ProAm boxing affair, the purists continue to criticize the effort and the coaching sector has criticized many aspects of the initiative. Amidst a plethora of unfair commentary, the coaches have come in for heavy criticism. It is against this backdrop that veteran coach, George ‘Canchi’ Oprecht believes that he and his colleagues have been unfairly lambasted and some of the critics are even positing that the coaches’ input, or lack of it, has contributed to stagnation of some of the boxers.
Oprecht was born in Rosehall, Berbice 68 years ago and became attracted to the sport from a relatively young age of 17. However, after a short tenure in the ‘square jungle,’ he decided to pack up his gears. Notwithstanding this, his love for the sport inspired him to become a coach and at 40 years-old he commenced his stint in this department.
When I first met ‘Canchi’ about two and a half decades ago, he was operating out of the Young Achievers Boxing Gym (YABG), situated in a small space at the side of his home in Garnett Street, Albouystown. Then, he was a sprightly energetic middle aged man plying his trade with a passion that underlined his love for the sport. This commitment was even more apparent when one noted that the gym hardly fitted the bill of a contemporary institution, yet ‘Canchi’ persisted.
In 1984, five years subsequent to the formation of the YABG, former Prime Minister, Hamilton Greene, acquiesced to a request made by Oprecht and donated a small building that was constructed on Independence Boulevard. It was not plush accommodation but the new edifice offered the young pugilists of Albouystown improved accommodation and attracted more qualitative boxers.
All this time, Oprecht persisted with the youngsters because he held a deep seated belief that the sport had the potential of transforming their lives. He distinctly remembers that day when former World Boxing Association (WBA) welterweight champion, Andrew ‘Sixhead’ Lewis joined the gym. “He was a skinny kid and he could not even throw a proper punch,” remembers Oprecht. “Andrew was a 12 year-old tot when I took him in hand and when he left me (for the USA) I had established a platform for the title he later won,” continued Oprecht.
Other than Lewis, many other youngsters practiced their trade at the institution under the tutelage of Oprecht. Notable among them was the late Commonwealth Champion and world rater, Andrew Murray.
Naturally, facilitating such a large group necessitated spacious accommodation but by then the People’s National Congress had lost the seat of government and Hammy’s tenure as Prime Minister had elapsed so help from this angle was not forthcoming. Apart from the limited accommodation, the YABG was not as secured as the coach would have wanted it to be as the building was devoid of windows and proper locks to secure the gears and other property.
All this changed on that historic night of Sunday February 18 2001 when ‘Sixhead’ pounded James Page into submission and relieved him of the aforementioned world accolade. Among the many honours bestowed upon the former world champ was a commitment by the Government to construct a modern facility to replace the dilapidated structure that at that time served as home to a host of pugilists in the Albouystown community and its environs.
And so on April 3rd 2004 a spanking new structure was commissioned which to this day facilitates training sessions of the nation’s top pugilists. Oprecht has retained the position as coach of the institution.
Oprecht is not oblivious to the many criticisms hurled at him nor is he totally ignorant of the accusations of his shortcomings. However, he remains adamant that his input has served his charges well. “I have been lambasted for the shortcomings of the boxers in my care but it must be noted that a coach could do only so much for his boxer,”Oprecht asserted. He opined that the boxers must also be cognizant of their roles and aspire to commit themselves to the task. “I regard myself as a reasonably good coach but molding a boxer to perfection is no cakewalk,” said the veteran coach.
He further explained that many times boxers come to him and when he assesses their quality he realizes the magnitude of work required to whip them into an acceptable shape for combat. “Take Kurt (Bess) for instance, when he came to me he could have hardly thrown a left jab but through diligent work I have been able to nurture and pilot him to the local heavyweight title,” pointed out Oprecht.
He has, however, lamented the fact that his critics merely highlight what they perceive to be the failures and pointedly ignore the improvements. “But this goes with the territory –the coaches are criticized but these critics hardly praise our efforts, “Oprecht said. “But I take everything in stride,” he concluded.
During his illustrious tenure in the sport, Oprecht had witnessed many innovative efforts by promoters and other administrators to promote the interests of the sport. Most of these initiatives have been short lived owing to lack of adequate funds, on one end of the continuum, and mediocre implementations on the other. Oprecht feels that the Friday Night Fights is just the antidote to reinstate local boxers to international acclaim and the sport to its number one spot among the other disciplines.
The veteran coach is just back from Jamaica where one of his charges, Winston Pompey, lost by knockout to homeboy, Sakima Mullings. Oprecht noted that the fight was staged on a similar initiative as the ProAm cards but dubbed ‘The Contender.’ “Other Caribbean countries have copied Mr. (Peter) Abdool’s initiative and implemented it for their boxers,” said Oprecht. “It shows that local boxing administrators are on top of their game.”
The veteran coach considers himself an important aspect of the boxing equation to the extent that when things go bad he feels that his input has been insufficient. He vows to continue implementing strategies and supporting the initiatives of his contemporaries and the administration of the Guyana Boxing Board of Control (GBBC) to lift the sport he loves from the doldrums. “It’s all I know and I intend to do it to the best of my ability,” he said of his involvement in the developmental plan for local boxers.
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