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Amateur boxing program hampered by poor conditions

  • The amateur boxing program of The Bahamas has been affected by the conditions at the national boxing center at the Baillou Hills Sporting Complex. Some young boxers are pictured in action in this file photo. FILE PHOTO

KELSIE JOHNSON
Guardian Sports Reporter
kelsie@nasguard.com

Published: Apr 23, 2012

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A group of coaches are calling on the government for assistance, to clean up the national boxing facility, which they believe has been neglected for too long now.

The building, which houses the facility, has been closed to the general public for more than a year, according to the coaches, who also noted that there is no electricity or water. Since it has been locked up for so long, an unpleasant odor greets the boxers when they go for training. National head boxing coach Andre Seymour has described the conditions as “very bad” and believes that if they don’t get help soon, the sport will go further into limbo. The national boxing center is located at the Baillou Hill Sporting Complex.

“My main concerns are the boxers’ safety and health as well as the sport,” said Seymour. “The condition of the national boxing center is in a very bad state. We haven’t been or had any boxing tournaments there for the last two years. I am very disappointed that nothing has been done. Like I said the conditions are very bad. It needs to be upgraded.

“Three important things that I brought up, to the minister, were the light and water and most definitely the floors. Inside the building is a mess. The floor is in bad condition; it’s just not safe for the boxers nor the coaches. You can’t jump in fear of falling through. There is no sign in the front to say that this is the national boxing center. It is down, and this might seem small, but it is important for when you want to bring in international boxers. These are just some of the things that we need, to get the boxing center up and running. Nothing has been done for the last two years.”

All of the coaches revealed that there has been a decline in numbers especially on the amateur side. They are worried that if the trend continues, the sport will become stagnant here in New Providence. It’s four months into the year, and no boxing tournament has been held. Kayla Johnson, the sole female boxing trainer right now in the country, said her program, the Southside Marlins, has been affected tremendously. Johnson who is now forced to train in the back of her yard, has about six boxers in her program. She said more than nine young men have left.

“They just stop coming out because they are saying there’s no reason for them to be training so hard,” said Johnson. “We can’t utilize the gym right now because of the state it is in. We can’t have tournaments or train, so they asked me why should they come out. Right now I am training them in my backyard. Like I have said, I have downsized a lot. They have lost interest in it.”

The last time the Marlins attended a tournament was early last year. Johnson said the club decided to travel outside of The Bahamas to get some work in. This is the same problem coach Doran Miller and Leonard ‘Boston Blackie’ Miller are having.

‘Boston Blackie’, who is regarded as one of the ‘grandfathers’ of the sport here in the country said that amateur boxing has come to a complete stop. He’s hoping to see a change once the gym is fixed. Once this is done, he believes that people will start training and more tournaments will bring the excitement back. For the younger Miller, boxing is a way to groom some of the young men in the country.

Right now there are about seven boxers who have remained faithful to his club, but even they are asking when will it pick up, noted Doran Miller.

“We need these things to get done so we can get started,” he said. “We have come together because this seems to be the only way to bring boxing back. The coaches do their best. The only things we are asking for are light and some work around the facility, so that we can get going. That’s not too much to ask for. Most of these things we can try to do on our own. Over the years in boxing, I saw where the sport helped a lot of the young fellas to have better outlooks on life. We not only teach them how to box but we help them in their daily happenings of life. Even if they don’t want to stick to boxing they leave the sport with a better mindset on how to deal with life. My biggest concern is if we don’t get help very soon, boxing is going to die and we are going to lose a lot of young guys who could be a future Olympians or professional boxers. We are going to lose them to the streets and we really can’t afford that right now. If we can get this started we would find out that we will be able to make a lot of changes in the lives of young men in The Bahamas.”

As the London Olympic Games approaches Seymour was hoping to use the facility as the training grounds for the country’s two boxing hopefuls. Right now both Valentino Knowles and Carl Hield are training in Cuba. They are scheduled to attend the International Boxing Association’s (AIBA) final Olympic qualifier, from May 4-13, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

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