As most Caymanians can attest it’s rare to see a world-class sporting event take place on our soil.
Most locals are used to seeing those match-ups on TV or reading about them in the media. But rarely can the public go to a venue here and see sporting action with all the trimmings of a global spectacle.
On Friday Cayman got its chance. The island’s first international boxing event took place at Royal Watler Cruise Terminal. Judging from the reaction of most fans, Cayman Knockout really floored everyone and with good reason.
From a captivating display of power and grit in the ring to the glitz and glamour of lights, cameras and a live steel-pan band, Cayman could really say it was knocked out by the style and substance of the night’s festivities.
In spite of several venue and starting time changes a mob of people still piled into Royal Watler. Even though chief promoter Dan Goossen tinkered with the formula he eventually got it right as many fans felt they had enough time to go home from work and come back for the opening bell.
By 6pm the stands were quarter-full and in 30 minutes time half of the seats were filled with onlookers anxious for carnage.
From the minute the crowd stepped into the terminal they knew this was a serious undertaking. Security and Department of Tourism personnel were everywhere. With concession stands on either side of the seats, fans were able to get their fill of food and boxing fury.
At 6:40pm, Radio Cayman announcers yelled out the start of the action. If anyone was in doubt as to what to expect that night, the first bout put that to rest.
Most boxing experts will tell you fighters in the smaller weight divisions generally produce some of the more entertaining bouts. Barnett-Miranda lived up to that billing.
The action was fast as both men connected with lightning-quick jabs to the midsection and plenty of hooks to the face. The crowd was hungry for blood as they cheered and groaned with every blow.
In the end they got their wish as a battered and bloody Barnett came from behind with a violent but thrilling KO of Miranda in the fourth round.
Miranda was winning through the opening rounds. However he seemed to be getting worn down by body shots. A solid right uppercut to the face and the stomach would end Miranda’s night.
By fight’s end, almost the whole terminal was full with people. Though they may have missed a good opening act, they were in store for quite an encore.
Cayman’s own Charles ‘Killa’ Whittaker was up next as he took on American Troy Lowry at roughly 7:15pm. Most fans were pleased that Killa’s bout was on time and in line with the promoter’s promise to fight him early.
The opening rounds proved the fans were in this event for the long haul as they jeered Lowry incessantly. At one point a male fan said ‘Killa don’t kill him now’ and another added ‘yeah we don’t need you going to prison.’
Like the featured bouts that were to come, Whittaker’s fight had plenty of pomp and ceremony. Goossen, His Excellency Stuart Jack and Minister of Tourism Charles Clifford all took centre-stage in the ring before the fight to state their support of Whittaker.
The feeling amongst most of the crowd was that Whittaker would KO the older Lowry within three rounds. It turns out those predictions were only slightly off as a fresh Killa won with a bloody TKO at the end of the fourth round.
Then there was a long half hour break. Goossen and company had a surprise for the Cayman crowd.
At roughly 8:30pm the night’s lone heavyweight fight got underway. Chambers-Butler was a slugfest expected to go on later in the night but Goossen wanted to inject a spectacular fight early on.
With punches that snapped and could be heard by Elmslie Church, Cayman was privy to an intense bout. Most times the crowd could be heard gasping in amazement.
Soon after, the crowd would erupt. Midway through the sixth round, Chambers got Butler up against the ropes. With a flurry of shots, Butler soon lost his legs and a loud blow sent him to the deck.
He was hit so hard he nearly fell through the ropes out of the ring. Butler was out like a light and the crowd exploded like a lit match thrown on gasoline.
Chambers-Butler would be a hard act to follow but the next bout would follow shortly.
Ruiz-McCullough was next. The two brawlers produced an onslaught of blows. In one of the biggest anti-climactic moments of the night McCullough called it quits at the end of the fifth round. Ruiz would be awarded a TKO.
Soon after the wily Irish veteran grabbed the mike and announced his retirement. The crowd’s reaction was surprisingly one of satisfaction as they applauded his efforts.
Some time afterwards, an amazing scene unfolded. The lights around the ring went dim and the Showtime cameras went in motion. Renowned ring announcer Jimmy Lennon Jr. was soon spotlighted in a bright white suit.
He instructed the fans to cheer at their loudest for the Showtime audience tuning in. Fans did not disappoint as they yelled on cue at the top of their lungs. From there a huge ceremony took place as Goossen, Jack and Clifford came to the ring again.
This time they were joined by two singers including Cayman’s Karen Edie and an American. The ladies came to the squared circle to perform the Cayman and American national anthems. Thereafter came a breathtaking fireworks display.
The time soon came for more fireworks in the ring. Hearns-Gonzalez was definitely worthy of being a featured bout as the two men went at each other from the get-go. In the second-longest fight of the evening, Hearns would emerge the winner by TKO roughly two minutes into the seventh round.
Then finally the main event was at hand. Ward-Ravelo kicked off with a flurry of punches as Ravelo was quick to set the pace. The float under his sail would soon dissipate as Ward used his grit and cunning to gain the upper-hand. It was all over midway through the eighth round when Ravelo’s trainer threw in the towel to give Ward the TKO.
Ultimately, the biggest winner on the night would be Cayman. With plans to make the event a fixture on Cayman’s sports scene locals will be able to enjoy getting knocked out by world-class boxing on a more regular basis.