They’ve been smacking the stuffing
out of the heavy bags and sparring like contenders for a world title. The
Cayman Islands boxing team is getting in great shape for their trip to Florida
next month to take on a team there.
Headed by coach Nayon ‘Donie’ Anglin
and Norman Wilson, the nine boxers – including two females – are looking
forward to going to Tampa for the show on 20 November. West Palm Beach was the
original club hosting Cayman’s best but they recently had a big show and
couldn’t get their fighters ready in time, so the best of Tampa’s novices will
be taking on Cayman’s finest.
Wilson is pleased with the progress
of many of his young charges. “Everybody is improving,” he said. “This is going
to be a great opportunity to see where they are really at. We are running them
like there’s no tomorrow because we don’t just want to go there for the ride,
we want to make a great impression.”
Travelling are Tafari Ebanks,
Dwayne Anglin-Folkes, Kendall Ebanks (fit again after a severe knee injury),
Jason Parchment, Erick McField, Peter ‘Lightning’ Lewison, Gino ‘Crusher’
Brown, Tracey Seymour and Jessica McFarlane-Richards. Also making the trip is
Aaron Powell but he is unlikely to be matched because of a nose injury.
Dariel Ebanks, who popped his
shoulder in his last fight, won’t have recovered in time.
Wilson, born in Muhammad Ali’s home
town of Louisville, Kentucky, has been involved in boxing as a fighter and
coach all his life, starting as a kid on the meanest streets of Philadelphia
before his family moved to Florida.
He is Charles ‘The Killa’
Whittaker’s trainer and doubles up as Donie’s assistant. Wilson has a home and
pig farm business in the Philippines now and is in Cayman for a while to help
build up the boxing programme – thanks to the support of minister of sport Mark
Scotland – and prepare Whittaker for his next contest. Norman’s wife Jenrose is
also here enjoying the Cayman lifestyle.
As a pro trainer he has worked in
some capacity – not necessarily always training them – with the best including
world champions Oliver McCall, Trevor Berbick, Michael Nunn, Donovan ‘Razor’
Ruddock, Lennox Lewis and even Sugar Ray Leonard.
His connection with Lewis came
about when Wilson was training some former Olympic fighters from Sweden who
were managed by the London-based Pannix Promotions, Lennox’s promotion company.
Lewis had an academy in Hackney,
east London and Wilson would fly from Florida with the Swedes for their final
preparations, fighting all over Europe.
Best of the Swedes was George
Scott, a lightweight silver medallist from the 1988 Seoul Olympics, who won the
European light-welterweight title as a pro and a minor world title.
Wilson travelled so much at the
time that American Airlines gave him a gold air miles card.
Joshua Clottey, who lost to Manny
Pacquiao on points earlier this year, was one fighter Wilson remembers from the
Lennox gym. Wilson worked with the Ghanaian puncher briefly.
Wilson has certain packed in plenty
of adventure in his 60 years. In the marines from 16 to 24 doing a variety of
jobs including boxing trainer, scuba diving instructor, working on rocket launchers
and demolition crews.
When he left military service he
attended Miami Dade Junior College for two years and then went to Florida
International University to earn a degree in physical education.
He taught in the public school
system for a few years and then junior college and was head of the swimming
department for five years at the same college he had been a student.
In 1986 he opened his own boxing
gym, Contenders, in Fort Lauderdale and really got into training full-time.
His good friend Chico Rivas runs it
now and if Wilson wanted to go back, so strong is their long friendship, he
feels he could. Wilson formed a great training partnership with former world
champion John David Jackson.
“John came in the gym one day and
said: ‘So you’re Norman Wilson!’ He said that people reckoned I would go round
and steal everybody’s fighters but that’s not true, many fighters wanted to
work with me.”
That’s how Wilson eventually linked
up with Whittaker who was on a losing streak and wanted a trainer who had his
best interests at heart. That was in 2001 and until 2007 David Jackson was in
Killa’s corner too.
When Wilson moved to the
Philippines, Whittaker’s faith in him was so strong that he followed him there
to train. “Charles still hung on to my coattails when I went to the
Philippines,” Wilson said. “He just wouldn’t let go!”
Their partnership has been hugely
successful ever since and the script has gone to plan so far which should lead
to a world title shot.