Aug 19, 2015 Sports
Former Continental of Americas boxing champion Michael Benjamin thinks so
The debate over the installment of boxing as a part of the Physical Education curriculum in the schools seems
to have come up with a blank with the various ‘educational’ experts dubbing the sport barbaric and far too cruel. Yet the most decent and civilized among us would sit before the television in high anticipation of world title and other fights involving Floyd Mayweather, Oscar De La Hoya and other world class pugilists and never for one moment denounce the activity.
Maybe it borders on hypocrisy that boxing is denounced as vile activity, unsuitable for the school system yet many children could be found packing knives, screw drivers and other dangerous tools within the classrooms, their means of conflict resolution.
North Ruimveldt Multilateral (Secondary) School will always remain the cream of all educational institutions to me. It was here that I procured my secondary education but most importantly, where my life was shaped. It was just around 1977 after writing the Common Entrance (now Secondary School Entrance Examination) that I walked into those austere halls, brimming with confidence and overflowing with enthusiasm. Around that time, with lots of excessive energy, my thoughts were riveted on sports and from all appearances Multi, which was touted to be sports oriented with gears for every discipline, seemed like the perfect institution for me.
Physical Education was a subject that was addressed practically and theoretically by a competent sports master and students were assured of the procurement of solid, all-round exposure to the various disciplines. Other than the sports master, I remember distinctly that experts and former or current players of various disciplines
visited and delivered pep talks and some even held clinics and/or practical sessions that served the students well. I believe that such strategies were employed in the entire school system but I have narrowed my comments within the Multi system because therein lies my first hand experience. For that reason one should not be surprised at the talent that emerged from Multi (or from most schools for that matter).
Sports were a priority and one only needed to note the equipment and personnel that were allocated to this important sector to appreciate this fact. During my first Physical Education session, I remembered staring in awe as the PE Master, the late cricket umpire, Clyde Duncan, opened the doors of the storerooms, located in the vast auditorium, to reveal cricket paraphernalia, boxing gears, volleyball equipment, table-tennis tables and other tennis gears along with host of other gears for other disciplines. We were allowed to just play (this was devoid of the rules and regulations); Physical Education was not only confined to actually playing the various games but also learning the rules, regulations and other intricacies of the disciplines and this aspect was methodically introduced as the school term progressed.
Like I said, I have engaged in football matches, basketball contests and even had a stint of cricket; as a youth there are no boundaries to one’s dreams and aspirations. Despite my involvement in other disciplines it seems pretty obvious that boxing was my destiny. I loved a fight and regarded such activity as the sole means of conflict resolution. So when one day during PE sessions we were introduced to a amiable, dumpy fellow
and informed that he was a boxing coach there to teach us the intricacies of the fistic sport, I just felt that I had reached my destiny.
The individual introduced himself as Cliff Anderson and he then went into a lengthy conversation on the pros and cons of the sport. When Cliff (as he preferred to be addressed by even the youngest child) discussed boxing one immediately dispelled the notion of cruelty that characterized the sport; as he succinctly put it, boxing is sweet science and a microcosm of life.
Cliff demonstrated meticulous patience as he took his charges through their paces. During the initial years of our interaction I have never seen Cliff angry and I’ve never hear him utter a vile word; he was always cool and composed.
My first appearance in the ring occurred at the Exhibition and fair that was staged at the Multi and East Ruimveldt Secondary (Back School). I had grown to love the sport immensely and after leaving school I joined up the Cliff Anderson Boxing Gym (CABG) then situated at Back School.
It was during my initial years at the CABG that I rubbed shoulders with the top guns. Anthony Andrews was at his raging best just before his epic encounter with Cuban pugilist, Joquin Campanioni. Ceon Bristol was also a feared customer as was the late Kingsley O’Brian, Leslie ‘Bill Blacks,’ the indomitable, Reynold McBean and a host of other top guns of that era all had their genesis at the CABG.
I remember Cliff’s modus operandi in the dispensation of techniques and other boxing knowledge. He would spend months teaching the newcomers the basics and they were not allowed to ‘gloves up’ until they perfected the basic defense skills. In other words, Cliff placed a heavy premium on safety of his charges as he was cognizant that he was dealing with school children.
Boxing teaches self defence while calming the unreasonable desires in bullies to beat up on hapless souls. Further, boxing at the learning stages is supervised with the supervisors (usually the coaches) paying strict attention to safety measures.
Most children (especially boys) at impressionable ages will engage in combat as a fun activity. Protection of self is one of the first things that one may learn. Boxing presents that opportunity for self protection. Ironically, most top boxers from around the world would have been born and bred in the ghetto. It was out of survival that these pugilists became boxers. One only needs read about the journey of pugilists the likes of ‘Iron’ Mike Tyson, Tommy Hearns and James ‘Buster’ Douglas among others to appreciate the power of the sport to lift one from among the proletariat.
Admittedly, boxing has its dangers and I remember as a boy of just about 11 years old when former world rater and Commonwealth champion, the late Patrick Forde, punched Cecil Fernandes into unconsciousness in a locally staged bout. Fernandes later died while being medi vacced to Miami for surgery. Does that mean that boxing is such a dangerous sport as to be struck from the school sports curriculum? I would think not! As a matter of fact I believe that there is a correlation between the sport and the inculcation of life enhancing skills.
During school days I also played cricket and had envisaged my future as a cricketer, that is until I was struck by a bouncer that swelled my eyes to a size and put paid to my ambitions. Today, maybe because of the 20/twenty concept everyone wants to be a cricketer.
Boxing has taken me around the world, across the ten regions of Guyana while rubbing shoulders with the ‘who’s who’ I still believe that despite the barbaric aura slapped on the sport, boxing still has the ability of lifting participants from among the proletariat. I believe also that the sport should be a part of the school’s curriculum but under shrewd supervision. And for those that still believe that the sport produces punch-drunk dunderheads devoid of academic propensities, I beg to differ; I learnt the sport as a teenager while still in school and was an international boxing champion way before stepping into the austere halls of the University of Guyana for a Diploma and subsequently a Degree in public Communications . Any questions?
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