Jamaica’s proud and decorated boxing history and the great boxers of the ’70s and ’80s were a result of the inspiration and foundation of local boxing gyms. However, in the ’90s, most of those facilities, like the Guinness and Dragon Gyms, closed. As a result, the enthusiasm and success went with them.
Recently, Wray and Nephew has attempted to revive boxing with the ‘Contender Series’ and gyms have popped up all over again, with young and inspired boxers again dreaming of being world champions.
Can these gyms again produce world beaters, the likes of Mike McCallum, Richard ‘Shrimpy’ Clarke, Bunny Grant, Percy Hayles, Uriah Grant, the late Trevor Berbick and Donovan ‘Razor’ Ruddock?
The reality of present-day Jamaican gyms leave a lot to be desired. A visit to Sugar Knockout Gym in Olympic Gardens and the Bruising Gym in Stony Hill revealed that gyms are short on equipment and most are on borrowed space and time and need somewhere to call home.
“Nobody give us anything,” Lindel ‘Sugar’ Wallace, Sugar Knockout Gym founder, told us. “The boxing board gave us a glove we use (in training) and it’s the same gloves we use to fight. We need a mid-section ball, speed ball, punching bag, skipping rope, mouthpiece and bandages, and I am not getting any help and I would be glad if I could get some,” he said
NO EQUIPMENT PROBLEM
One gym with no equipment problem is Bruising gym. Owner Carl Grant ‘begs’ when he travels and only needs a place to open a full-time gym. “When I travel, I tell them in Jamaica, we have no gear. When competitions are over, I beg gear. I own a truck, so it’s easy to move stuff,” he said.
Some equipment he got through a friend who looked them up online and sent a barrel with shoes, gloves, gear and punching bags. “I can host a tournament and have gear for the opposition and my team. But I can’t sit and wait on the boxing board,” he continued.
GRANT WANTS OWN PLACE
Grant now wants his own place. He says a location has been identified for development. “We get the privilege to use the Rocky Valley Community Centre for nine years, but we outgrew it. We need an indoor gym that can open 24 hours. Member of Parliament Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn is looking about a piece of land, and the Sport Development Foundation said if I can show proper documentation, they will fund it,” he said.
His setback is lack of running water. “We (centre) just need water and a place to call our own, but, otherwise, we are alright. If they (the board) need results, they must put in resources, and they are not doing that,” he added.
For Wallace, it’s distressing not having a reliable training venue. “The main thing we need is a space. If Government can help us get somewhere, it would be good. They promised to develop somewhere near six years ago, but I can’t put my faith in that. I need somewhere I can call Sugar Knockout. I tried at home, but the space is too small. I tried it in Waterhouse, but some people don’t want things to be better between the communities,’ he added.
Jamaica Boxing Board of Control president Stephen ‘Bomber’ Jones has admitted that local gyms need more equipment. However, plans are afoot to develop two national gyms. “The only thing missing is equipment. The focus is on a national gym, which will look more professional. We will build the national gym, Stanley Couch, and we are working on having another in Montego Bay. I will be comfortable having two gyms we can be proud of, then we can assist others with resources we have,” he said.
In two months, Jones wants proper equipment at the Stanley Couch Gym and intends to have regular fights there “weekly or every two weeks’. While in Montego Bay, he wants a location where anyone can work out. “National boxers will be free, but we will seek membership so the gym take care of itself,” he reasoned.
Both Grant and Wallace also believe Wray and Nephew can also do a lot more to assist the gyms.