The recent Cayman versus Cuba boxing show raised the profile of the sport locally and internationally with some terrific fights in front of an appreciative crowd.
The Lions Center bill featured two Extended After School bouts, a heavyweight clash between two of Cuba’s best and two bouts showcasing light-welter Kendall Ebanks and featherweight Tafari Ebanks against world ranked Cubans. Kendall was outpointed by Luis Oliva Gener and Tafari narrowly outpointed Norlan Diaz.
Sitting ringside were Mike Laurenson and Tommy Duffy of Elite Marble & Granite who helped sponsor the event and have since become major sponsors.
Spectators were witnessing for the first time this year the two locals in the ring and were impressed with their performances as they aspire to Olympic and world championship honors.
Duffy has always been heavily involved in boxing and was for a time a trainer with the late Dalmain “Dee Dee” Ebanks who started the boxing program in Cayman decades ago. When the state-of-the-art gym was opened four years ago at the Truman Bodden Sports Complex, it was named after the West Bay icon.
“Twenty years ago, I started working with Dalmain and helped young boxers develop their skills in the old gym behind the Post Office in George Town,” said Duffy.
“It was little more than a shack with a boxing ring in it, but we still managed to train some good boxers.
“I was really moved when they rang the last bell for Dalmain at the show. Dalmain, as everyone knows, was a Cayman boxing legend and it was great to work alongside him.
“Along with coaches Norman Wilson and Nayon “Donie” Anglin, we brought along fighters like George Foster, Ernest Barnes and Paul Anglin.
“We took Paul and Ernest to the Police and Fireman Games in Sweden and both medaled. Foster was a really handy heavyweight and he won a regional title in Negril, Jamaica. They were great days, but Cayman has some real stars here, right now with these two young fellas.”
Laurenson, a huge boxing fan himself, was equally impressed. “These boys are the best I’ve seen come through the ranks in Cayman for some time,” he said. “If they keep working hard, they’re capable of doing something really special.”
Both fighters will travel to Kazakhstan in Eastern Europe on Oct. 11 to compete in the world championships. Judging by their performance against the Cubans, they should fare well.
However, the boxing association is struggling with the funding needed to give the duo the kind of international exposure needed for them to develop at elite level.
“As the after-schools program develops and our young boxers get better and better, we need more funding to enable them to gain experience,” said the boxing association president Terence Spencer. “With success comes an even greater demand on monetary resources.”
Laurenson and Duffy recognized this and generously stepped in last week to cover the cost of sending Kendall and Tafari to a training camp in Cuba this week to receive the best possible preparation.
Spencer said, “We are hugely grateful to Mike, Tommy and Elite Marble & Granite for this very generous show of support to our program and our young boxers. This is the best possible preparation our guys could get.”
The Cayman Islands Boxing Association’s programs were also audited by the celebrated coach professor Jesus Dominguez of the sport’s governing body AIBA.
One of his recommendations was to increase the participation in the after-school program and for it to reach East End, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman to help develop more talent.
Two 12-year-olds, Finn Millward and Callum Smith, were featured at the Lions show to highlight all the positives from the Extended After-School program. They gained plenty of admirers in a bout won by Millward on points.
Norlan Diaz started boxing at age nine. The boxing association’s aim is to recognize and build talent at such an age for future generations to become national team members.
Tafari, 19, started boxing only a few years ago and has only been training seriously for three years.
For him to be tipped by Dominguez as a future world champion is testament to his talent and dedication and also an endorsement of the boxing association’s policy of having experienced coaching staff and development regimes. Greater funding would allow expansion of the program.
The boxing association is planning another event early next year against a strong Canadian team and also a golf event to raise funds.
If anyone is interested in supporting these initiatives or the boxing association and their after-schools program, contact Mark Woollard at [email protected]