By Michael Benjamin
The news that all three of our boxers that participated in the current Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland have lost, at varying stages of the tournament, has been greeted with the usual shrug of the shoulders as local sports enthusiasts have long ago become immune to these disappointments.
Of course, this was not always the case as local boxers have distinguished themselves as the Caribbean powerhouses up to just around the mid-eighties and were well respected, to the point of fear, among their Caricom and even Latin American counterparts. Now, it seems as though our pugilists have degenerated to such a sorry state that even before we leave these shores for international competitions, our fate is sealed.
Despite the scant regard for our boxers, it is they that have delivered the goods on many fronts. Who is the individual to have broken the world title jinx? Who is the sole individual to have delivered a bronze medal at the Olympic Games? Hadn’t local boxers returned to these shores with top Commonwealth Games accolades?
For the record, the names Andrew ‘Sixhead’ Lewis, Michael Anthony Parris and Winfield Braithwaite are boxers that would have flown the Golden Arrowhead with pride after achieving the aforementioned milestones. Lewis won the World Boxing Association welterweight belt from James Page; Parris won his quarter-finals bout in the 1980 Moscow Olympics to clinch a bronze medal and Braithwaite defeated Scotland representative, Jim Douglas, for the 1977 Commonwealth light/welterweight title and gold medal in Edmonton Canada.
In these days of modernity, where training applications are well structured, as against those days of trial and error, it seems that the executive of the Guyana Boxing Association (GBA) are content to pursue antiquated ploys in order to secure contemporary solutions. What is completely puzzling is that despite the obvious failure of these applications, they are bent on the same path and foolishly expect different results.
It is anyone’s guess how the GBA executives arrive at the final team compilation for tournaments but over the past few years there has been a redundancy of faces and the only noted consistency is that these boxers continue to be unproductive.
Bantamweight boxer, Imran Khan, middleweight, Dennis Thomas and to a lesser extent, Eon Bancroft have all been tried, given extended runs but are yet to justify the faith placed in them by the GBA selectors. Such failures should have been the cause of concern for selectors who should have put systems in place to rein in such inefficiency. Instead, GBA have recklessly persisted in rewarding such failures, giving the errant boxers ‘one more chance’ despite their noted failures.
In contemporary sports, there is hardly room for failures and most countries have replaced athletes and/or managers/coaches after such persistent failure. Guyana seems to be the exception to the rule and our boxing administrators are given extended runs while employing old solutions to new problems. Obviously, there are two reasons why these selectors choose to persist with such archaic methodologies; either they don’t know better or are simply unwilling or unable to make the requisite adjustments. The ruling executives must prod them into reality.
We have heard of the ‘Road to London’ and observed our hopes dwindle to naught as our boxers stumbled at the first pothole. Now it’s ‘The Road to Brazil’ and all that’s changed is the country; the road is just as rocky. We have been inundated with strategies to effect viable changes within the local boxing fraternity and while they have been administered with much pomp and ceremony, the end result is just as dismal as the preceding initiative.
Over the years, several coaches have been given the unenviable task of moulding the local boxers for international competition. Most of the top coaches have also been exposed to international training; Terrence Poole, Sebert Blake and Carl Franklyn have had training stints in Hungary compliments of the Guyana Olympics Association (GOA). One would have expected that these three senior coaches would have been merged into a unit in the dispensation of knowledge, techniques and strategies to the benefit of local pugilists. For some inexplicable reason, the selectors have virtually sidelined Blake and Franklyn and continue to persist with Poole, despite his failures. This has got to be a record in the history of sports (in any territory) that a national coach who has presided over numerous failures coupled with an all team defection to the United States of America, could still manage to gain the nod at the helm of the national team. Small wonder therefore, that our local boxers continue to turn in mediocre results. Is that not what the administrators have settled for in their criteria?
The GBA authorities have cited inadequate funding to address the many initiatives planned towards their charges’ development; they have reminded that despite conforming to a criteria set out by the Minister of Sports, Frank Anthony, to encourage government support, they are still to receive the anticipated assistance to address their itinerary.
Admittedly, the absence of a tangible input from the government will hinder their developmental plans but if one is to examine the circumstances it will become obvious that such shortcomings can hardly be the sole reason for the poor returns.
Efforts by GBA officials to broaden the scope through an initiative dubbed ‘Nuff Cuff,’ in outlying rural communities have failed to produce the desired results yet we are still to hear of an examination or survey being conducted by GBA officials to establish the real reason for these failures.
Personally, I have travelled to Barbados and St Lucia quite recently and have noted an exhibition of courage and skill by several pugilists but most notably, Bert Braithwaite and Delon Charles. I have pointed this out to GBA President, Steve Ninvalle (who was also at those tournaments) yet have seen no meaningful effort to harness these talents. However, Dennis Thomas, who was omitted from the St Lucia team for indiscipline behaviour at the South American Games in Chile, was subsequently selected for the Commonwealth Games though we are still to hear of what, if anything has come out of those investigations.
There is no need to belabour the fact that Imran Khan has been exposed to numerous opportunities around the globe but is still to justify his inclusion in the team, while Bancroft was hardly convincing when he fought in the Tri-Nation tournament at the Cliff Anderson Sports Hall (CASH) February last, yet he has clinched a spot on the Commonwealth team.
The bottom line is that there is much more that needs to be done if local pugilists are to reclaim the glory of their predecessors. Obviously, the strategic applications of GBA officials could make a big difference. Otherwise, the road to the 2016 Brazil Olympiad will be fraught with difficulties and like those taken before, will prove too arduous for our pugilists. Consequently, the decisions taken by GBA officials could provide answers long before the actual tournament gets underway. Will they persist with the same set of boxers or will we witness different strategies to effect positive results. We wait with bated breaths.
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