After decades of speculation, the Cayman Islands is finally going to get a dedicated boxing gym.
The ground breaking ceremony took place on Wednesday and was conducted by Minister of Sports Alden McLaughlin.
He said: ‘Today is a day that has been awaited with great anticipation by the sporting fraternity and the wider Cayman Islands for well over 30 years and I am pleased to welcome you to the groundbreaking ceremony for the first ever purpose built facility for the sport of boxing in the Cayman Islands.’
McLaughlin added that boxing began over 40 years ago, when Dalmain Ebanks returned from the navy and gathered together a few items of basic training equipment and began to train a number of youth.
‘Many would remember that Mr Dalmain and his band of boxers became some of the biggest attractions on the local social calendar as they made their way throughout the districts doing boxing exhibitions,’ McLaughlin said.
‘Some of these early Caymanian boxers included Ivan Farrington, George Whittaker, Dale Ramoon, Nayon Anglin, Buel Braggs and later, a young Charles Whittaker.’
But he added that despite the popularity of the sport in those early days, it struggled in large part because of inadequate training facilities and many youngsters, who would come to the various training venues, soon became discouraged due to the poor quality of the facilities and lack of proper equipment.
Dalmain’s widow, Esther, was at the groundbreaking ceremony.
The new 5,700 sq ft gym will cost just over $1 million and is due to be completed by the end of June. The contractors suggested that it might be ready before that deadline.
Anyone who has visited the present club site, in George Town centre, behind the library will realise how poorly equipped the gym is. It is slated for demolition soon.
McLaughlin said: ‘Despite these challenges the sport continues to not only survive but demonstrate that there is significant latent talent within the Cayman Islands. As recently as 2006, the entire Cayman Islands team led by coach Donie Anglin medalled at the Caribbean championships with young Jesse Bodden garnering a gold medal in the light-heavyweight division.
‘In the professional arena, Cayman’s champion boxer Charles Whittaker continues to make great strides as an Elite Athlete and maintains a ranking of seventh in the world by the WBO. He is set to carry the Cayman Islands flag in a fight in the Philippines next Friday.’
McLaughlin added that Anglin has been boxing coach since 2003 and is to be applauded for keeping the sport alive under trying circumstances.
‘Coach Anglin has assured me that this gym will go a long way to helping the Cayman Islands achieve new heights and he has already begun to develop relationships with boxing federations in Cuba, Jamaica, and Trinidad in anticipation of the opening of this facility for cross-country partnerships in training and competition to develop our local boxers.’