Born on November 11, 1988 to Lloyd Douglas and Samantha Atwell in Friendship, East Coast Demerara before being sent to live with his grandmother Margaret Douglas in the East Bank Demerara Village of Agricola as a three-week old baby, Clive Junior Atwell did not have an auspicious start to his life.
But the 31-year-old Atwell is a fighter; both in and outside of the ring and has rose from many knock-downs in his life with more determination, both as Boxer and as person.
It’s not often that you hear of a Pastor who likes to fight and it is God who has helped this ‘Fighting Preacher’ get back on his feet after being battered and bruised physically and emotionally.
The former world rated pugilist, with a professional record of 17 fights, 13 wins, 3 losses with 7 KOs after winning a bronze medal at the 2007 Pan American Games as an Amateur in the bantamweight division wants to make a difference in society.
Atwell attended the Agricola Nursery and St Ann’s Primary also in Agricola which in those days had a lot of crime and drugs and many parents were afraid to send their children to school.
But it was an afternoon in 2002 while going home from the Houston Community high school that Atwell’s life changed.
Atwell, now 14 at that time, was far from typical youth living in the ‘getho’ since he was not involved with drugs or gangs, he did like any sports (he liked bicycle racing on the street) and was already actively involved in the Church life.
“I was going home from school and as I was passing the Ricola Boxing Gym I saw some boys boxing and out of curiosity I stopped went to the door.
The late Donald Allison, the Coach at the Gym asked if I had ever boxed. He told me to sit and watch and if I liked it, ask my mother if I could join and I will make you a champion,” Atwell explained how he got interested in Boxing.
He said the next day he was back but he did not join the Gym thinking he could become an International Boxer, but to use it as a passport to get away from house chores.
“But I soon fell in love with Boxing…it was like a drug. All I did was school, Gym, Church. I had my first fight as a 14-year-old and that’s how my Boxing career began,” Atwell explained.
While Boxing he attended the Guyana Industrial Training Center (where he graduated Best Student in Plumbing), Government Technical Institute of Guyana and did Long Distance Education at the University of Guyana.
“I give it my all since I realised that Boxing was a way out for me. The invitation from the late Coach Allison gave me a new perspective on life. I knew that I was created to do more than what I saw on the streets in my Community,” Atwell said.
“I wanted to see myself as someone better…I was determined to be different. I was one of nine children, I did not know my mother until I was eleven, my grandmother was my backbone,” Atwell disclosed.
In 2007 Clive Atwell obtained a diploma in Amateur boxing from the Pan American Athletic Organization after returning from the World Championship in Italy.
“I started dominating at the Amateur level and winning a bronze medal at the 2007 Pan American Games in Brazil made me an Olympic qualifier for the 2008 Olympics. But a lack of funding and support prevented me from going to the Olympics. I felt it was an injustice for me that after I had come so close, the powers that be did not see it fit to invest in me,” lamented Atwell.
Atwell got married to Altavi and in 2009 moved to Dominica where his only son, Alexander was born in February 2014. He turned Pro a year later while he and his family resided in the Dominica from 2009 to 2015.
While living on the nature Isle he completed a leadership and Human Resource Management course at the Dominican campus and studied Theology in Dominica while still boxing.
“I remember coming home and beating Carlton Skeete on January 29, 2010 at the Cliff Anderson Sports Hall on my Professional debut,” said Atwell, who fought as a Featherweight, Super featherweight, Lightweight and Super lightweight.
Due to the low standard of boxing in Dominica, Atwell’s career was put on hold for almost one year but he never gave up on the sport. After weeks and months of discussion and negotiation with boxing promoters back in Guyana he was finally set to enter the ring once again. October 2011 he fought Orlando Rogers, and won by a unanimous decision.
Atwell gained a TKO verdict over T&T’s Prince Lee Isidore June 29, 2012 at CASH to capture the vacant WBC–CABOFE super lightweight title before beating Rafael Hernandez on April 20, 2013 at the Princess Hotel, Guyana for the vacant WBC–CABOFE featherweight title.
Atwell challenged Jhonny González on May 24, 2014 at the Convention Center, Acapulco, Mexico for the WBC featherweight title; the bout ended in a Unanimous TD after González was cut from an accidental head clash.
“I left Dominica two weeks before that fight to train at the Gleason’s Gym in Brooklyn and thinking back I got a hard punch, while sparring there on the right side of my head,” revealed Atwell,who fought in Australia, Brazil, the USA, Mexico, Italy, Trinidad, Barbados, St Kitts and Dominica.
He passed his medical for the title fight in Mexico but on reflection that could have been the hit that caused Atwell to faint in the last fight of his career.
Atwell, a former Caribbean Featherweight Champion, defeated Jamaican Sakima Mullings in February 2015 at the Cliff Anderson Sports Hall to take the vacant WBC–CABOFE super lightweight title, before his life changing bout against Dexter Gonzales for the vacant WBC–CABOFE lightweight title at the Giftland Office Max on October 28, 2015 would end his Boxing career.
Atwell seemed ahead in the fight before he fainted in the ninth round and had to stretchered off in an unconscious state to Hospital with bleeding in his brain as faith floored him with a harder blow than he had ever received in the ring. Atwell, a true fighter, beat the referee’s count in the battle for his life…. but only just.
Atwell was bleeding in his brain and an emergency surgery to decompress the swelling which was jamming on his central nervous system. The Doctor cut his scalp to release the pressure and the ‘patch’ (hole in his head) had to be left open for several days to ensure that the swelling decreased.
The surgeon discarded the piece of bone from his skull which should have been used to cover the hole in his head which meant that during his ‘Corrective Surgery, done at the Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York, a titanium mesh or plate had to be used instead.
“The doctor threw away the bone he removed from my skull since he said there was no bone bank in Guyana and insisted that the second surgery could be done here despite the unavailability of adequate facilities. At the time only my grandmother, my wife, who has been my rock and tower of strength and my Mother-in-law Karen Young were there supporting me. It was very hard for the family especially finding funds for my second Surgery,” said Atwell, presently the Lay Pastor of the Remo Methodist Church in Agricola.
“God said he would take care of his own and I am grateful that God has put people in my life who have been there for me when I needed support the most since nothing was happening for me,” added Atwell, who owns the AAA Printing and Documentation Services and CJ’s Pluming & Electrical Maintenance Services.
Pastor Atwell said that an article in the Kaiteur News done by a sport Journalist who himself had a brain Surgery, highlighted the issues he was facing and got the ball moving in a big way.
“He understood the stress I was under since as someone who also represented Guyana in Sports he had experienced the same frustrations when he was going for his Surgery and has been with me ever since,” Informed Atwell.
Now a Boxing Coach at the Ricola Gym, Atwell said Gwen Williams, Joey from the Payless Varity who heads the Guyana Community of Services, Lady Ira Lewis in New York, Ring 10 Boxing Foundation in NY, Dr James Kurt in New Jersey, Dr Monica Sanchez and her Assistant Bibi were among those who played a huge role in him being able to do his corrective surgery in the USA.
“When I got back from the USA I was told that I would take six months to heal but after two weeks I wanted to do things for myself and I started going for morning walks. I remember one day my amazing wife told me she was going to market and not to go downstairs. When she left I went for jog and could not remember where I lived. Another time I climbed to the top of a Coconut tree and could not come down since my body started to shake. Just after my surgery I suffered from short term memory loss, was affected by noise, was easily irritated and I would start trembling if I did too much work or if I was hungry,” informed Atwell, who wrote and passed his theology exams against Doctors orders.
“It wasn’t an easy road…seeing my wife cry many days. After my Surgery she could not find a job despite her qualifications and she did not want me to work. I had spent all my savings on my surgery…..I had done so much for my Country and got no support from those I expected to help but God is good and my wife now works at the Ministry of Natural Resources,” Atwell said.
“I have some contact with my mother but she has not played a role in my life, while my father was never there, even when I successful and fighting for titles. But when I was at rock bottom he came alive and reached out to me and I am grateful for that,” said Atwell who does not like speaking about his parents.
It was former Mayor and Church member, the late Ranwell Jordon who was a father figure in his life. Jordon was a big supporter of positive Youths engagements and a big boxing fan.
“He would come to almost all of my fights and my leadership drive comes from my association with him,” said Atwell who is the Mission Administrator of the Methodist Churches in Guyana.
Atwell said that although at times it seemed like a delayed process the journey is what’s important. Although it was an unfortunate journey it validates that God will make a way when there seems to be no way.
“Although I have so much faith in God there were times when I was at my lowest Physically and emotionally I felt like giving up, I even though of killing myself but through determination and faith I am determined to make a difference in the lives of others,” said the Boxing Coach.
“Even five years later I get moments that try to pull you back into thoughts of what could have been but I know I have gotten a second chance to be in the ring as a Coach and make a difference through Boxing and the Ministry of God,” said Atwell.
His biggest disappointment, apart from missing the crowd shouting his name as he dances to another victory in the Boxing ring, is that most of the youths who came the Ricola Boxing Gym want to be a world Champion overnight and are not prepared to put in the hard work in their training. (Sean Devers)
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