Cayman’s boxing scene is in good shape – which is more than I can say about myself after making a comeback after 27 years in retirement.
When I had my last fight in May 1981 after a brief and inglorious amateur ‘career’, visions of swapping punches again anywhere other than in self defence never crossed my mind.
Ronald Reagan was US president, Maggie Thatcher was British prime minister, Michael Jackson was still black (just) and cell phones, internet and sat navs still belonged to the space age.
My stories were done on a typewriter, photos taken on film and dressing like a pirate in the New Romantic style was in vogue.
The Oakland Raiders were Super Bowl champs that year, Spurs won the FA Cup, Aston Villa won the old First Division title and Liverpool won the European Cup.
Sugar Ray Leonard was emerging as the best of a sensational crop of fighters of that generation that included Marvin Hagler, Thomas ‘Hitman’ Hearns, Mike ‘Bodysnatcher’ McCallum and Roberto ‘Hands of Stone’ Duran. Trevor Berbick also smashed a decrepit Muhammad Ali into retirement.
So taking on Gareth ‘The Pride of Wales’ Griffiths, in a ‘white collar’ bout was going to be a tough proposition.
Under trained, overweight and petrified, I went in there at the Lions Centre and all my worse fears manifested. He was faster, fitter and more intense than expected.
Three exhausting rounds and one big battering later, the referee raised my hand! (Actually, I pre-empted his decision knowing full well Griffiths was the deserved winner.)
‘Man, you’ve got a hard head,’ he said. Little did he know that was my strategy, a sort of rope-a-dope ploy for him to wear his fists out on my thick skull and I would knock him out in the closing seconds. Mum always said I had a hard head and I proved it.
Griffiths joked: ‘I’m only 45 fights behind the other Pride of Wales, Joe Calzaghe!’
There were seven other fights on the card and all humdingers.
White collar boxing is for wannabe office bods like me who for some crazy reason act out their gladiatorial fantasies. The adrenaline rush is worth every lump and bump.
First on the bill was white collar vet James Burch, a Maples lawyer who boxed in London before coming here last year. He had a tough task against amateur prospect Bruce ‘Lee’ Coulson.
It was a storming fight which went all the way down to the wire and rightly called a draw. The third round was terrific with Burch mounting a late assault that prompted a standing ovation.
Burch was exceptionally brave (or foolish) in taking the match because Coulson is a mixed martial arts exponent too.
Great way to start the night’s action which set the tone for the rest of the evening before a huge crowd considering Burch was the organiser and had limited time and resources to put it all together.
White collar debutant Luke Willingdon took on MMA specialist Peter Lewison next. That was another crowd pleaser. Both were exhausted at the end but Lewison’s fractionally better punching got him the decision.
Then came my hiding before boxing coach Donie Anglin’s son Jason Parchment stepped in with visiting Jamaican Omar Tomlin.
The much taller Parchment peppered the novice Tomlin’s face with jabs and big right crosses, forcing a third round stoppage.
Two white collar debutants did battle next with extraordinary intensity.
Gus Dacker and Mark Cook had trained together for months and become firm friends. But they fought like feuding tigers. ‘We promised to put on a good show and I think we did,’ Cook said in a gross understatement. Dacker won by decision. Another great fight to keep the appreciative crowd happy.
Amateur prospect Kendall Ebanks was next. The light-welterweight stylist had a tricky start against another Jamaican visitor, Anthony Clarke.
But once the Caymanian found his range and rhythm he took Clarke apart and won comfortably by decision.
The only women’s fight on the bill came next when Sarah Kidd fought another Jamaican import, Felice Groves. Both techniques were raw but there was no doubting their fitness, bravery and commitment.
Kidd won a bad tempered encounter – they had to be pulled apart at the final bell – but she was the worthy winner, knocking Groves down early in the contest.
Top of the bill was heavyweight Dariel Ebanks, 19, making his debut against the experienced New Yorker, Terence Spencer.
Ebanks has impressed coach Anglin with his slick southpaw moves in the gym and against Spencer, who has sparred with the likes of Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones Jr, he would be tested to the limit.
It was actually a stroll for Ebanks who took Spencer apart in the first round, rendering him three standing counts, which meant an automatic stoppage.
It was a classy display from someone so inexperienced. Ebanks has immense potential and if he sticks with it could be a huge success.
He has sparred with Charles ‘The Killa’ Whittaker and looked good against the world class pro. If Ebanks can get enough amateur experience, there’s no telling what he can achieve.
Apart from my battering, it was a thoroughly enjoyable evening.