May 24, 2013 Sports
Asks Michael Benjamin
Boxing pundits of yesteryear will remember, with a twinge of nostalgia, the grueling and action packed encounters when the Cuban boxers visited Guyana to compete against their Guyanese counterparts.
Those were the days when such stalwarts like Anthony ‘The Pearl’ Andrews, Allan ‘Red Belly’ Housner, Winston ‘Service’ Richards, Darius Ford and the Thomas brothers, Wensel and Alfred, among others, ruled the roost.
It was also around that time that Michael Anthony Parris travelled to Moscow and clinched what is still Guyana’s only accolade at the Olympics, a bronze medal, stilled to be eclipsed by any other sportsperson.
Maybe it was Guyana’s dominance in the fistic arena that led the pundits to predict that should this country win a medal of any sort at the Olympics, it would be through the efforts of our boxers; Parris’ feat was sweet vindication.
Ironically, while the amateur fraternity was performing wonders on the international scene, professional boxers were failing in their efforts to win a world title. With boxers the likes of Kenny Bristol, the late, Patrick Ford, Lennox Blackmore, Vernon Lewis and a host of other worthwhile pugilists, even the expert analysts failed to conceptualize on the antidote to this troubling issue.
In the meantime, Guyana enjoyed moderate successes during yearly exchange programmes with the Cubans and was the top Caribbean country in the fistic arena. Who could forget Joquin Campanioni, the southpaw flyweight boxer that unleashed a two fisted attack on Anthony ‘The Pearl’ Andrews and left him spread-eagled on the canvass for the full count.
Fans will also remember that Ray Jones, a hot flyweight out of the GDF, took up the challenge and matched Campanioni’s aggression to the extent that many felt that he was ‘done in.’
Those were also the days when renowned Cuban trainer, Trotman Daly, tutored our boxers to competent forces on the international scene and hopes were high that we would have broken the Olympics gold medal jinx in the 1976 Montreal Games in Quebec, Canada.
This was not to be as almost all sovereign African nations and a few other countries from elsewhere boycotted the games in Montreal, in reaction to the International Olympic Committee’s refusal to ban New Zealand, whose rugby team had been touring South Africa, a country that had been excluded from many international sporting events due to implementation of apartheid policy.
Cuba left those games with a 13 medal haul, 6 gold 4 silver 3 bronze so in effect, Guyana benefited through its sport interaction, more particularly in boxing, with that Spanish speaking country.
Imperceptibly, activities simmered and eventually died altogether, impacting negatively on local amateur boxers’ advancement. Suddenly, every Tom, Dick and Harry threw out challenges to our boxers and though at first we managed to overwhelm our foes out of Jamaica, Trinidad and other Caribbean countries, the writing was on the wall and by the early nineties local pugilists began experiencing much difficulties to emulate previous victories, a feat that was easily attained in the late seventies.
The situation got progressively worse and at present our boxers are experiencing grave difficulties in challenges against the above countries which, in the past, were easily attainable.
It was against this backdrop that administrators of the Guyana Amateur Boxing Association (GABA) took a bold step to revive the activities of yesteryear and later this month, a strong team of local boxers will depart these shores to match gloves with boxers from several countries at the Giraldo Cordova Cardin International Boxing Tournament to be held in Cuba at the Ramon Fonst Arena June 4-9 next.
This is a big tournament and one is even tempted to query whether GABA administrators should have taken such a huge step at the first outing for over two decades. Coach, Terrence Poole, believes that his boys have the requisite ability, a view shared by Cuban coach, Francisco Hernandez Roldon.
Several other countries would be participating in the tournament which, in reality, could be viewed as a mini Olympics. Alejandro Barrientos, a judge, referee and member of the Cuban Boxing Federation, intimated that Russia will send two squads to take part in the traditional tournament, while Argentina, Barbados, Brazil, Chile, the Cayman Islands, Canada, Kazakhstan, China, Jordan, Algeria, Mongolia and Australia will also participate.
Officials will also benefit as, parallel to the boxing tournament, an international course for referees of the International Boxing Association (AIBA) will be held. The 42nd edition of the Cordova Cardin tournament was held in Cuba in June 2012 and featured boxers from 12 countries and regions; Cuba had won all 10 titles of the final bouts.
It is this tournament that our boxers will attend and all hopes are high that they will do well. However, this would only be possible if they accrue some three million dollars to alleviate expenses and provide answers to that critical question, is the Cuban tournament a return of those nostalgic days of amateur boxing dominance?
Those boxers that have earned the nod are, Police representatives, Middleweight, Dennis Thomas and Bantamweight, Imran Khan GDF representatives, Welterweights Eon Bancroft and Ron Smith, Light/Middleweight Bert Braithwaite and Lightweight, Clairmont Gibson. Featherweight, Delon Charles (FYF) and Lightweight, Stephon Gouviea (HE) complete the team which will be Managed and Coached by Terrence Poole with assistance from Cuban Coach, Francisco Hernandez Roldon.
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