‘Chance of a lifetime’

Last week Charles Whittaker, 32, was feeling the weight of a long hard career. Frustrated by the difficulties of landing a title fight in the complex and political atmosphere of professional boxing, he asked, ‘God, when am I going to get the call? When, Lord?’

Charles Whittaker

Charles Whittaker has been promised a shot at the vacant NBA middleweight crown on 30 September in the Cayman Islands. With Charles here at a press conference held last week are members of the event organising committee, Sherenette Watson (left) and Ann-Marie Byrd.
Photo: Guy P. Harrison

At that moment, Whittaker says, his phone rang. It was an official with the National Boxing Association who asked if he was interested in fighting for the vacant middleweight championship.

‘All I heard was ‘world championship’ and I said ‘yes!’. This is my ultimate goal,’ declared Whittaker. ‘It’s the chance of a lifetime for me. This is special. All the money in the world can’t buy a world title. I’m very excited about this. When the hour is darkest, that’s when you have to trust in God. I did and the phone rang.’

Whittaker’s big fight is scheduled to take place September 30th at the Lions Center. He is tentatively set to fight Oscar Gonzales. Whittaker is pleased that the biggest fight of his career will take place in the Cayman Islands.

‘I plan to represent our flag well,’ he said. ‘I promise I will win and I dedicate this fight to Mr. Dalmain Ebanks.’

The late Dalmain Ebanks is widely considered to be the father of boxing in the Cayman Islands, having encouraged many young Caymanians, including Whittaker, to take up the sport as a way to learn discipline and steer clear of trouble. It certainly worked for Whittaker. As a child growing up in West Bay he seemed to be on the fast-track to Northward Prison. After a stint at a reform school in Jamaica, he found boxing and it provided him with a dream to chase and a reason to fly straight.

‘The way Mr. Dalmain inspired me, I hope to inspire those who will follow me,’ Whittaker said of his former mentor.

West Bay MLA and former sports minister McKeeva Bush has been a long-time supporter of Whittaker’s career and sees the fight as not just big for Charles but also for Cayman.

‘This is a big advancement for Cayman,’ said Bush. ‘I’m very happy for Charles and I hope that Cayman will support him. I know the West Bay community will.’

Whittaker has a committee in place to organize the fight, hopefully freeing him up from promoter duties so he can concentrate on training in Miami. Members of the committee are: Sherenette Watson, Ann-Marie Byrd, J. Robert Bodden, Katie Oneil, Hope Stephenson, Sandra Catron and Bergie McLean. Anyone interested in offering support may phone 939-8284 or 926-0749.

While some boxers might wilt under the pressure of a title fight in front of their country, Whittaker believes it will only fuel his hunger to win.

‘No one in the history of the Cayman Islands has ever been able to do it [win a world championship]. It’s an extraordinary achievement that I’m this close to it. I believe God allows extraordinary people to take on extraordinary responsibilities,’ he said. ‘I believe I am an extraordinary person so I’m eager to accept this challenge. A lifetime dream is about to come true.

‘This is my time.’

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