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National sports program needs total focus by all

Sport Scope
  • Valentino Knowles.

Guardian Columnist/Sales Executive

Published: May 19, 2012

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The Bahamas failed recently to land another guaranteed presence in the London Olympic Games. The Amateur Boxing Federation of The Bahamas put forth light welterweight Valentino Knowles and welterweight Carl Heild in the final qualification trial in Brazil earlier this month.

They both exited in the first round and now only the slim chance of an at-large selection by the Internationale Boxing Association (AIBA), remains. According to ABFB President Wellington Miller, there are eight more universal spots left.  AIBA will soon make the selections but we have to be mindful that the more influential areas like Africa, Asia and Europe will be favored.

The failure to advance automatically by Knowles and Heild was a great disappointment. Both have been two of the finest competitors on the amateur boxing scene in the Caribbean, North and Latin American region in the last four years. Now, they both hope for that very small window of opportunity.

The Bahamas will surely be represented in athletics and swimming. Those who coordinate the other disciplines and the athletes within must continually be aware of the need for total focus. The world sports industry is more competitive today than ever before.

I emphasize often in this place, the need for more funding, but those within the sporting fraternity have the obligation to give best efforts at all times, so that we can maximize the national potential to the fullest.

Did the boxers go to the utmost extent of their capacities?

Heild, who is not as naturally gifted as Knowles, I believe, did give his all. He has had a good career, the highlight being a bronze medal from the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

Knowles has had the more glittering career. He won Continental and Commonwealth Games bronze medals; Pan American Games and Commonwealth Championships silver medals; and a Central American and Caribbean Games gold medal. Knowles is widely considered to be one of the two best light welterweights in the region. Roniel Iglesias of Cuba is No. 1.

Knowles should have moved on to face Iglesias in the next round in Brazil. A first round win, even if he lost again to Iglesias, would have gotten him in, says Miller. But, he went out in his first bout and now it’s a waiting game for one of the universal spots.

Athletes are urged to take Knowles’ first round defeat in Brazil as a lesson. Talent is just one of the ingredients for success. It’s also about the drive, the determination and the awareness always of putting out the best. Knowles has had one shortcoming throughout his career. He has been blessed with skills in the ring.

He never fears being manhandled in the ring. He is that good, but perhaps that is also the reason he has not been more successful. Knowles always feels he can pace himself in the first round and even second and then come on strong in the third round and pull out the victory.

Fortunately for him, it has happened more often that he did in fact come out victorious. Then, there have been the other occasions when he lost by taking it easy while his opponents hustled throughout.

Miller expressed utter frustration when we talked.

“Man, I’m so disappointed. We work so hard with the program, offering the boxers the best opportunities to get in peak condition. In the case of Valentino, all the regional nations, especially the English-speaking ones, expected him to go through. He lost in the first round because he decided to box “his way” and not heed the advice to push hard from the opening bell in the first round.

“I’m bothered because I feel this was a great opportunity for us. Last Olympics, we had Taureano Johnson go through to the quarters. He fought very well in Beijing and carried the banner for the English-speaking Caribbean. All around the area, they were proud of The Bahamas.

“You try always to maintain that top status. We had a chance again. Trinidad had a boxer who qualified in Brazil. We have just that slight chance now. We should not be on pins, waiting and hoping though,” said Miller.

Valentino Knowles must indeed be congratulated for the career he has had. However, if he decides to turn professional this year, his amateur career would end in an anti-climactic fashion if he is not fortunate enough to get one of those last universal spots. When he does turn pro, just as against amateur competition, his success will depend upon whether he stays totally focused at every stage of every contest.

To respond to this column, kindly contact Fred Sturrup at sturrup1504@gmail.com.

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