Boxing fans are no doubt disappointed that local hero Charles Whittaker’s much-anticipated World Boxing Council title fight scheduled for 25 April has been called off. Mr. Whittaker, who has literally fought for years for the opportunity to take the big stage with a major title at stake, must be equally disappointed.
But, for several reasons, we think the government made the right decision to withdraw its support for the event, which would have cost a reported US$1.85 million.
Simply put, given the current economic situation and the fact that government has already had to slash the civil service budget for ministries and portfolios by at least six per cent for this fiscal year, it should not be paying that kind of money for one-time events. This is especially true since the Department of Tourism footed the US$1.1 million bill for the ‘Cayman Knock-out’ boxing event held at the Royal Watler Cruise Terminal just eight months ago.
Last June’s fight created a lot of controversy as it was, not because anyone begrudges Mr. Whittaker’s talent or desire to be the best at his craft, but because, given the turbulent economic times and the government’s ambitious capital spending programme, some felt the return on the money spent from the DoT’s budget was not worth the investment.
To now have spent another US$1.85 million, which would have totalled almost US$3 million in less than one calendar year just on boxing events, doesn’t make good financial sense, given the economic climate of today. For one thing, it has been argued that the demographic audience for boxing, generally young male adults, is not the target market for Cayman’s tourism product in any case.
Additionally, spending huge amounts of money to support a single Caymanian athlete does not seem fair, especially when the government can’t seem to afford basic facilities for an entire group of elite athletes: our swimmers.
Despite Cayman having sent multiple swimmers to the past two Olympic games; despite the success of some of those swimmers at high university levels in the United States; and despite the dozens of very talented swimmers who have represented Cayman well in regional or international competitions, successive Cayman governments have still not found the funds to build a 50-meter pool, the recognised standard for training world-class swimmers.
It is unfortunate that Minister of Tourism Charles Clifford apparently agreed to the fight in April without Cabinet’s approval; but we applaud Cabinet for pulling the plug on this event. Interestingly, last week the WBC supposedly pulled the plug on sanctioning the event as a title fight, but that is ultimately beside the point.
We feel for Mr. Whittaker, but the government had to think about what was best for the country, not just him. In other, more prosperous times, the government probably could have afforded this and we would have supported that decision; but the timing was off for ‘Killa’ right now.