Popular Caymanian boxer Charles Whittaker won a thrilling bout against Jerome Ellis of the Bahamas recently in Grand Cayman. But not everything of interest occurred in the boxing ring.
The presence of three significant government leaders indicated that Whittaker’s hope of forging an alliance with government to hold bigger, more elaborate events in the future may have become a little bit more realistic.
Sports Minister Alden McLaughlin, Tourism Minister Charles Clifford and Leader of the Opposition McKeeva Bush, were all present to cheer on Cayman’s first-ever world champion in any sport as he picked up the NABO Jr. Middleweight title to go with his NBA Jr. Middleweight belt.
After the fight, Whittaker clearly was appreciative and thanked them for attending.
He also said he is hopeful of fighting in Cayman again. This was a dramatic reversal after weeks of suggesting that this would be his final fight at home. But Whittaker was so encouraged by the turnout of more than 2,000 fans, as well as the government leaders, that he is now considering not just another home fight but one in Cayman Brac. This would be historic for the country. Holding a championship bout on one of the sister islands has never been done.
A Brac bout has obvious sports tourism potential. One can easily imagine an excited Brac population welcoming a few charter flights from Grand Cayman filled with fans. Whittaker says he hopes something can be worked out with government to assist such an event.
Although it is debatable as to how much financial support government should offer a for-profit event starring a professional athlete, one must remember that Charles Whittaker is a rare commodity in Cayman sports. His last two home fights managed to fill the Lions Center with paying customers. Some purchased tickets that cost well in excess of $100. This is unheard of in local sports. Most sports events cannot get fans to come for free, much less for a significant price.
Whittaker has proven that he is able to draw a crowd and there is little reason to doubt his ability to achieve it in Cayman Brac. If government is unwilling or unable to provide direct financial support, there is also the opportunity to assist with expertise, planning and promotion.
We hope Whittaker and government can secure a workable alliance on some level that will benefit our champion’s career, provide a temporary boost for Cayman Brac’s economy, and inject significant excitement into Cayman sports overall.