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Cyril Smith, sports’ unassuming icon

Sports Scope
  • Cyril Smith looks on with the awareness of the expert referee during this 1990 bout that saw former Commonwealth light welterweight champion Steve Larrimore defeat Braulio Santiesteban. File photo

Guardian Columnist/Sales Executive

Published: Jan 17, 2012

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Last week in this space, I had reason to mention the name of Cyril Smith. His great grandson Eugene “Geno” Smith III is a highly regarded junior collegiate quarterback, the star of the West Virginia University campus.

No doubt, the connection surprised many readers. There is much more to Cyril Smith however. He was a tremendous athlete and one of the great sports figures in the history of The Commonwealth of The Bahamas. His credentials verify him as one of our true sports icons.

He became a sports headliner locally more than 60 years ago. The year was 1950 and he was a part of that pioneer bodybuilding wave in the country. The first Mr. Bahamas was staged that year and Smith etched his name historically by winning the title. He will always be known as the first Mr. Bahamas. He went on to blaze a trail in bodybuilding, along with others, such as Hubert Wong.

Smith competed successfully for over a decade. Subsequently, he was a part of the important group that gave birth to the Bahamas Bodybuilding Association that began regulating the sport under the jurisdiction of the international federation in 1962. Ironically, by the time the local association got its official affiliation with the international body, Smith was making vital contributions to yet another sporting discipline. As it turned out, Cyril Smith (although not as a competitor as was the case in bodybuilding) became equally as synonymous with boxing.

It was as a referee that he gained fame, and the lofty regard of boxing people in this country and abroad, as one of the finest ring officials of his era. As the third man in the ring for many of the big boxing bouts throughout the decades of the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, Smith was as good as any and better than most. He ranked right up there with George “Boo” Wilmore and Nelson Chipman as reputed quality referees, produced right here in this country.

Because of his excellent work ethic and general ring demeanor, representatives of boxers coming in for matches, were totally comfortable with Smith. They knew that he was a pillar of neutrality, determined to treat both boxers equally, hometown star or not. In the ring, he was a referee pure and simple, thinking only of the job at hand, with the sentiments of the home crowd blocked out. His wholesome approach and his penchant for staying well conditioned, allowed him to be a significant part of boxing for almost 40 years.

He was a serious official, all business in the ring, but with the kind of compassion that added to his efficiency. He never allowed a fight to go further when one of the boxers was in trouble. He also had that keen awareness to not stop a fight without giving a boxer every opportunity (within the margin of safety) to succeed.

Smith was a mild-mannered gentleman but because of his distinguished professionalism, he was fully respected in boxing circles. Accordingly, his role in the development of boxing sort of upstaged his years as one of the first elite bodybuilders in the land. Cyril Smith surely crafted a rather nice legacy.

It was indeed a joy, going down memory lane to salute this stalwart Bahamian whose efforts in nation building through sports ought to be cherished forever.

To respond to this column, kindly contact Fred Sturrup at fredericksturrup@gmail.com.

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