Oct 01, 2020 Sports
(Continued from yesterday)
Benjamin then traveled to Canada in August 1987 to visit his mother and continued training sessions in Toronto under trainer, Peter Wylie. Less than two months after arriving in the North American country he accepted a fight against Canadian Victorio Belcher and experienced his first loss by a fifth round TKO.
“Up to then I had racked up an unblemished 8-0 record and the loss left me shattered,” Benjamin revealed. He attributed his distraught feelings to “an intrusion into my perceived aura of invincibility.”
“I was so devastated that I felt like quitting the game,” claimed Benjamin. He remained in that sultry mood for almost a week and then engaged in serious introspection. “I questioned my ability and eventually labeled my decision to quit as “spontaneous irrationality,” he said. Before long the stocky fighter was back in the fray, engaging in training sessions in several gyms across the Toronto, Ontario area including Spadina, alongside renowned Guyanese boxer, Nedrie Simmonds and the Landsdown Boxing Gym. “I was then unofficially handled by local boxing promoter, Keith “Buckilo” Bazilio who, following my inaugural loss, organized an international bout against Spaniard, Ramon Zavala, at the sports Hall. For me it was a redemptive affair so I trained exceptionally hard and came out victorious.”
The former lightweight and welterweight champion said that he had had many memorable bouts but the one that stands out is the Jeff Roberts encounter for the local lightweight title in November 1987. He said that it was his first attempt at a local title, “It was a grueling fight that taxed my physical and mental energies. I won by a close shave but my fans were discontented. For weeks I could not venture out of my home without being approached by Guyanese boxing buffs, some adoring, some disgruntled, all clamoring for a rematch. Unfortunately, that fight never happened,” said Benjamin.
Benjamin also rated the first encounter against Barrington Cambridge, in May 1990, as a tough one. Cambridge had him tottering on the ropes in the seventh round but Benjamin displayed the propensities of a warrior, survived the onslaught and rebounded to knockout Cambridge in the following round. “It was an unbelievable display that earned me great respect from some fans while the naysayers labeled the feat a fluke, agitating for a return. They got their wish in December of the same year and Cambridge managed to reverse the verdict on points.
“I am not one to bellyache but I still feel cheated of that fight. I remember that Cambridge’s jaw was broken yet the referee refused to call a halt.” Nonetheless, Benjamin credits Cambridge with ‘courage and the heart of a lion.’
Benjamin feels that he was treated unfairly on many occasions by those he trusted as well as officials of the Guyana Boxing Board of Control (GBBC). He said that one such situation occurred in the early nineties when he was initially scheduled to face off with fellow Guyanese boxer, Rawle Frank.
“While preparing for the bout, Frank breached the rules and was knocked out in French Guiana by Ludovic Proto, in defiance of the statutes of his contract. A certain member of the GBBC collaborated with the promoter to infringe on my rights, ordering me to sign a new contract devoid of fresh negotiations. I was also told that I had to refund the $25,000 advance I had received for the initial bout.” Benjamin said that he rebelled against the stance which sparked a dispute with the promoter, who received full backing from a key GBBC official. The matter was investigated by the late Director of the NSDC, Ken DeAbreau and ended up in the High Courts before Chief Justice, Desiree Bernard and subsequently, a full blown matter before the late Judge, Desmond Birch Smith.
The GBBC was supposed to have been representing my interests but those officials left me in the wilderness,” bemoaned Benjamin. He mentioned another sordid experience, this time with one of his managers. “I’ve had three of them in my boxing life but this particular one proved to be dishonest and I was constantly receiving unexplained deductions from my purse,” Benjamin said. “At that time the President of the GBBC was the late Frederick Rampersaud. I filed a complaint and he convened a meeting with his officials, myself and the manager in question,” Benjamin claimed. The former champion said that the GBBC officials did uncover vast deficiencies and ordered the manager in question to pay up, which he did. “Boxing managers are a cagey group and most boxers fall prey to them which negatively impacts their career,” Benjamin said.
“I’ve managed to make a smooth conversion from sports to academics and have acquired a Diploma and Bachelor’s Degree in Communication from UG,” he revealed.
Benjamin also informed that he studied Spanish at the Venezuelan Institute of Culture and pursued the subject as a minor at UG. He said that he owes a debt of gratitude to former Registrar (UG), Vincent Alexander, who was instrumental in his acceptance into the tertiary institution. To this effect the astute pugilist practiced journalism, first at the Stabroek News, where he wrote a weekly feature, ‘Knockout Punch,’ and then Kaieteur news, as a sports reporter and feature writer. Benjamin also hosted ‘The Sports Show’ on HBTV 9 and a similar programme on GWTV 2. Benjamin also served as a boxing commentator on the defunct Guyana Broadcasting Corporation.
Benjamin has since given his life to Jesus Christ following several experiences that convinced him that God was inspiring him to ‘come into his kingdom.’ “I could have been dead after several accidents that broke my nose bridge, severely injured my back, almost gouged out my right eye and the last one that left me somewhat physically incapacitated,” Benjamin mused.
He said that he taught at several schools around Georgetown including North Ruimveldt Multilateral, North Georgetown Secondary and the St Margaret’s Primary among others. “I refuse to subscribe to the view that boxers are unintelligent and I hope that my (academic) feats lend some strength to that belief,” Benjamin said.
He is currently a Public Relations Officer at the Ministry of Housing and Water. Quizzed on his views of the current state of the sport, Benjamin emphatically retorted, “My mother always advises that when you have nothing good to say about something, remain mum. So for my response I’d say, “Mum’s the word.” (Sean Devers)
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