Cayman have one hopeful fighter at the Olympic trials in Trinidad this week, Jesse Bodden.
He is adept at a range of combat sports, including Muay Thai but will have a tough job at these boxing trials because with four Pan Am Games gold medallists among their 11 fighters, Cuba has the strongest team there.
They descended on Trinidad and Tobago for the Association of International Boxing Associations Americas Olympic Games qualifiers which started yesterday and run until March 18. All bouts are at the Jean Pierre Complex, Port of Spain.
The tournament has attracted 29 countries with the Cubans having the largest delegation. The other big teams are Colombia (10), whose squad is led by Pan Am Games light-heavyweight gold medallist Eleider Alvarez, while the strong Puerto Rican, Venezuelan and Canadian teams all have nine boxers.
Also competing are Argentina (8), Guyana (7), USA (6), Dominican Republic (6) and US Virgin Islands (6). Five boxers will come from Dominica, four from Jamaica and Barbados, three from Peru and one from El Salvador. Along with the Eastern European group, this is arguably the toughest boxing trials to enter anywhere in the world.
At least Bodden may get another chance if unsuccessful. After this round, the region’s boxers have a final chance to qualify for the Beijing Olympics in August at another tournament from April 24-29 in Guatemala City, Guatemala.
Bodden, 25, has only had four amateur contests, which pales into insignificance against the seasoned Cubans who have hundreds of bouts under their belts gleaned from up to 20 years in the ring. At least Bodden has the confidence of knowing he was the Caribbean novice light-heavyweight champ two years ago and has exceptional power for an amateur.
The Cuban team includes Idel Leal Torriente, bantamweight champion at the 2007 Pan Am Games in Rio de Janeiro, Elilio Correa, Pan Am middleweight gold medallist; Osmai Acosta, Pan Am heavyweight gold medallist; and Robert Alfonso, the Pan Am super-heavyweight gold medallist.
The other Cubans are winners of their national championships at which their best 47 fighters competed.
After being banned by President Fidel Castro due to a fear of defections, Cuba did not send a team to the World Championships in Chicago, last October, when 14 of the 60 slots were decided for boxers from the Americas in the Olympics.
As a result, the Cubans are taking this tournament seriously and have brought their best team. They were also the first contingent to arrive in Trinidad a week ago, along with Ecuador.
Cuban Vincente Martinez is head coach of the Trinidad and Tobago team. They have eight boxers.
Among other favourites are the United States, who arrived on Sunday night. The Americans have already qualified five boxers for the Olympics through the World Championships so have only sent six this time.
They also have a strong team, including bantamweight Sadam Ali, who recently went on a voluntary three-month suspension for testing positive for a banned substance.
He accepted a ban, which allowed him to compete in Trinidad. Ali is a 2006 national Golden Gloves champion in the US. The Americans also have army soldier Chris Downs, a 33-year-old Pan Am bronze medallist in the light-heavyweight class and heavyweight Deontay Wilder, 22, last year’s Golden Gloves champ.
Bodden is in elite company Photo: Ron Shillingford