Salandy’s death a blow

The boxing world is saddened. Jisselle Salandy, considered in some quarters as the brightest female boxing star since the rise of Laila Ali, was involved in a fatal car crash in Trinidad on Sunday.

At 21, she was one of those right at the top of the young sporting elite circle in the Caribbean and expectations for her were great.

As a light middleweight, she had no equals and died holding the titles of six world organizations inclusive of the World Boxing Council and the World Boxing Association.

Salandy started her professional career at the age of 16 and was 17-0 after her last fight, a decision over Yahaira Hernandez of the Dominican Republic on December 26.

Her Women’s International Boxing Association (WIBA), WBC and WBA titles were on the line.

In March against Karolina Lukasik of Poland, Salandy defended those three crowns plus the Women’s International Boxing Federation (WIBF), the International Women’s Boxing Federation (IWBF) and the Global Boxing Union (GBU).

Although with a last name nowhere near the high profile of Ali, Salandy in her own unique way was growing into a marketable figure.

Ali just gave birth and her continuance as the marquee figure in women’s boxing is uncertain. With Ali off the scene, the young Caribbean ring star was prominent in the minds of boxing leaders in the region and promoters as the sport’s signature active female participant.

Now, she’s gone, just a few weeks shy of birthday 22 on January 25. Her death is a huge loss for the Caribbean region. Throughout Latin America, North America and most of the world, female boxing is growing in popularity. Indeed, the female portion of the sport in Europe, rivals that of the males.

In the Caribbean though, the female interest has remained quite low.

Salandy was looked to as the role model many other females would have emulated.

In Bahamian boxing history there has been one female, Rosemary Green.

She fought for the first and last time in December of 2003. In Jamaica and Barbados the female situations are similar. Trinidad & Tobago is clearly the region’s leader in female boxing. Salandy was on top of the heap.

World female boxing prime catalysts Ed Pearson and Jill Diamond both had high hopes for the future role Salandy was to play in lifting up the female end of the sport. They and others often expressed the utmost respect and admiration for Salandy.

In the land of Salandy’s birth, she was one of the national heroes. The island’s Minister of Sports, Gary Hunt, was quoted calling Salandy ‘a role model for young people, especially females’. He is so right. Today, in the region, many of our young female sisters are misplaced and without any kind of a positive direction. Salandy gave them all hope that they could rise from obscurity and adversity.

I well understand how Trinidad & Tobago Boxing Board Chairman Brian Lewis must be feeling. Salandy was the spark that would have done much to ignite the country’s boxing program.

As the present head of the Pan American Caribbean Boxing Organization and the Commonwealth Boxing Council, I too, had special plans for Salandy. In 2009, she was to be invited to important events to fuel the female interest in the Caribbean region and the Commonwealth.

All that is left now though is to pay tribute to her life, and work toward enabling Jisselle, even in death, to still be a role model for thousands of Caribbean females.

Rest in peace Jisselle Salandy.