Dalmain’s legacy still packs a punch

It was more than 60 years ago that the first punch was thrown in the Cayman Islands, under the Queensbury Rules, and few would argue that the person who threw it was more than likely the real daddy of Cayman boxing – Dalmain Ebanks-aka Dee Dee.

Having served his time during WWII in Trinidad Dee-Dee had taken up the sport there, and when he returned home with a few pairs of gloves he introduced some of his friends in West Bay to the skill of the ring, and a grass roots amateur organisation was born.

With no real training facilities, or even a proper ring, the local enthusiasts boxed anyone who was willing and while there was not much in the way of organised weight divisions there was plenty of commitment, love, blood, sweat and of course tears – above all there was no shortage of talent.

There was however, a shortage of money and few of the boxing stars of yesteryear were ever able to take their talent on to the international stage where many of them would have excelled.

Dee-Dee was considered a brilliant fighter in his day and many say he could have been a serious contender, if only there had been the money.

Regardless of the lack of funds however, the sport had a small but loyal following, especially in the districts of West Bay where young boxers fought in the town hall and in George Town where they trained and fought behind the library.

Sheryl Goring Whittaker became a leading name and young fighters like Buel Braggs began enjoying the sport even in the face of adversity.

‘Sometimes I could hardly lift the gloves when I started out as we had to use what was around no matter what size they were, but we all put up a good showing,’ said Braggs.

Most of the competitive bouts took place on what was known as Family Fair Day or at the annual Agriculture Show when the local fighters would demonstrate their skills as the local home crowd cheered them on.

In the early days the local boxers had to content themselves with a few unofficial ‘international’ bouts against Jamaicans living in Cayman , but eventually one or two young boxers faced a few fights in Jamaica and managed to get in a little training there as well, even sparring with the odd world champion.

The first real international experience for Cayman boxers however, came in 1978 when Dale Ramoon and Nayon ‘Donie’ Anglin represented their country in the 1978 Commonwealth Games, in Edmonton Canada, with Frank McField as coach the two young Caymanians put up a decent showing against some of the world’s star fighters.

‘That was the first time any boxers from Cayman had really competed on the international stage,’ said Ramoon who now spends his time judging local bouts. ‘And it was only the second time I had even fought in a real match.’

The games spurred on all of those involved in boxing and when they came back they did their best to generate more interest.

Although they did attract new enthusiasts they failed to attract the money the sport needed to finance the necessary training facilities and equipment.

Still those who loved the sport never gave up and carried on fighting both metaphorically and literally, until 1984 when the sport received a significant boost.

None other than the world famous icon of boxing Muhammad Ali put in a special guest appearance when Cayman hosted its first professional fight featuring Eddie Mustafa Muhammad who was a former WBA light-heavyweight champion and Andy Russell from the Bahamas.

The sport continued with its ups and downs but in the late 1990s Sheryl Goring Whittaker’s boy Charles began to show some ‘killa’ promise.

Emerging as a true chip off the old block, the young Whittaker hauled himself out of trouble on the streets and into the professional ring, as he pushed for glory and eventually won the NBA junior light-middleweight title in 1997.

Having promoted a total of nine boxing events here in Cayman in which he has fought and won, Charles ‘Killa’ Whittaker has made a significant impact on the sport.

With his success the sport took a turn for the better and before Hurricane Ivan struck its knockout blow, regular Monday night fights at the Islander Complex would feature local boxers fighting each other, overseas residents and even tourists in entertaining bouts.

With Dr Frank McField taking the role of Minister of Sport boxing began to make headlines again.

In September 2004 just a week before Ivan, Whittaker stepped in to the ring against Chantel Stanciel at the King’s Sports Centre.

With Michael Buffer, one of most famous personalities in the boxing world as ringside announcer Cayman got Ready to Rumble as ‘Killa’ won the IBO Inter-Continental light middleweight title.

It was also the year that the Cayman Islands Boxing Commission was officially formed and the sport moved from a lose grass roots association to a recognised sport.

With former fighter Donie Anglin named as the country’s official boxing coach in 2003, working hard to promote the sport at every turn and a new boxing gym in the works at the Truman Bodden Sports Complex the future of boxing in Cayman is looking better than ever.

And according to Anglin the country has a future super-heavy weight world champion waiting in the wings.

‘The one to watch out for is young Ronaldo Garcia who has a lot of potential. He is an impressive young boxer.

‘In a recent fight in Jamaica even the Jamaicans were betting on him to win,’ said Anglin who coaches some 30 young boxers including two women.

‘We have the talent here in Cayman to produce some world class boxers with the right support there are no limits.’ he said.

Even though boxing has historically been in the shadow of football and cricket in Cayman, it has always been much loved by those involved and attracted grass roots enthusiast who, over the years form Dee Dee’s early days to the rise of Whittaker, have shown that Caymanians can pack a punch.