Cayman’s top amateur boxer Jesse Bodden is in Trinidad hoping to earn himself a place at the Olympic Games.
Bodden, 25, left on Monday and is confident that despite his lack of experience, he can earn himself a berth to Beijing in August.
Bodden is in superb shape. There wasn’t a spare ounce on him when he left weighing 158lbs. Only problem is he is fighting at the welterweight limit of 152lbs so will have to boil himself down to make weight.
‘I’m going to mix it with them Olympic style and know I have to do a lot of sticking and moving,’ Bodden said. ‘I’m ready to get it on and believe I can get the extra weight off easily. Some people have to sit in a sauna in a plastic suit and run for miles to get their weight off but I can take it off easily just by sitting in the sun for 20 minutes. After all, it’s only water weight.’
Isn’t there a danger that the Caribbean novice light-heavyweight champion from 2006 might be weak at welter? ‘No, I know I can be strong. I’ve been eating right, plenty of high protein and lots of small meals.
‘I know the Cubans are going to be there but it doesn’t worry me. I’ll take what ever comes my way. If I don’t make it this time I’m going to try again in Guadeloupe in April. It’s a tough task, but he sincerely believes he has the ability to reach Beijing. He would become an instant national hero just for getting there.
Bodden, 25, has only had a handful of amateur bouts. He gets combat experience from fighting Muay Thai bouts too. He has always loved a fight and no challenge is too big. He even sparred with Charles ‘The Killa’ Whittaker recently and got a concussion for his bravery.
It seems that Bodden was born to fight even though by his own insistence, he attracts trouble when not looking for it ‘I think I look like I can’t fight and people like to pick on me.’
Boxing suits him because it is one of the few combat sports that can earn him a decent living when he eventually turns pro.
‘I really like learning how to fight better,’ he says of his interest in all combat sports. ‘I really like boxing best.’
Trained here by Cayman Islands Boxing Club coach, Donie Anglin, Bodden has a lot of respect for him. ‘Donie’s a great coach. He could have been a champion himself if he’d stuck with it, I guess. When I come back I usually get into a rhythm right away with him.’
They often train on Seven Mile Beach as well as the gym. Anglin said: ‘Jesse can go a long way in any sport, he just loves to fight. Whatever you come with, he’s ready. He’ll go far, he’s got the right attitude towards it. Mixed martial arts he’ll be a success in that cos he’s got a lot of fight in him.’ Anglin refereed two bouts on the Charles Whittaker bill on Saturday and if Bodden wasn’t going to the trials may have officiated if he had fought that night.
If Bodden gets a spare moment in Port of Spain, another boxer with an interesting background he might get chatting to could be American soldier Christopher Downs.
The army sergeant is 33, the oldest in the team. He is a father of two and, until the Iraq war began four years ago, he had never entered a boxing ring. On top of all that, he first had to survive 13 months in combat to get where he is now.
Regardless of whether he makes it, light-heavyweight Downs will resume his Army infantry duties when he’s finished with his Olympic effort. But while he has a moment in the spotlight, his mission is to let people view a side of Americans not often seen from Iraq, he said.
Downs’ journey from postal clerk to combat leader and potential Olympian began in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Although the money was good he was bored so he enlisted in the army to broaden his horizons.
That was the start of a successful army career and an introduction to boxing that he hopes to scale the amateur heights in.
At 178lbs, Downs is set for a qualifying fight tonight.
After the Games, some of his teammates are expected to turn pro on lucrative contracts that can pay upwards of $200,000 in the first few years. Downs has no intention of leaving the army, he loves it too much, despite the Iraq experience.
Former street fighter from a tiny island and US soldier who has been on the frontline; if Bodden and Downs qualify for the Olympics, there will definitely be a lot of people cheering for them – and for very different reasons.