Against a backdrop of private jets, speed boats and fast cars, the Cayman Islands Boxing Association pulled off a demonstration showcasing the progress it has made towards Olympic boxing over the last 18 months.
The crowd at the Island Air Luxury Party were treated to a number of bouts last Friday featuring the association’s after-school program participants and members of the national team.
The first demonstration set the scene with Raymond Rodriguez and Hopkin Ebanks showing their talents during a feisty sparring session.
Next up, the younger pairing of Roger Ray Watler and Rakeem Martin did not disappoint either and they demonstrated the talent that is coming through the junior ranks of the boxing program at present. Kheon Robinson then squared off against up-and-coming prospect Diego Rodriguez in a hard-fought bout.
The final demonstration was between 16-year-old amateur team member Hopkin Ebanks and 26-year-old Fernando Calderon of Puerto Rico.
Calderon, who boxes out of the United States, was on island to help prepare Tafari Ebanks for the main fight of the night. Despite Calderon’s wealth of experience over Ebanks, who has only been boxing for 12 months, Ebanks was adjudged to have thrown more scoring punches during the demonstration bout than Calderon, enhancing his reputation as one to watch in coming years.
The highlight of the evening was the fight between Cayman’s Olympic hopeful Tafari Ebanks and Kendric Stuart, an elite-level boxer from the Bahamas. This three-round, international amateur bout was highly anticipated and a large crowd had gathered to watch it.
Ebanks came out of the traps fast and made his power tell with several crunching head shots. But Stuart demonstrated why the Bahamians were so keen to come over for the bout, landing two right hands to Ebanks temple, the second of which really rocked Ebanks and had him retreating for the first time.
Ebanks won the first round narrowly but asserted his dominance in the second round, flooring Stuart with a punch that was adjudged by referee Donie Anglin of being too low.
Ebanks’s confidence grew as the bout went on and it was no surprise at the end that the judges had awarded him a unanimous points win.
Over the last 18 months, Tafari Ebanks has been internationally recognized as an Olympic prospect and one to watch by the international boxing association.
On the back of his impressive performance at the World Championships in Kazachstan last year, he has been invited to specialist training camps in Sweden, where he spent his Christmas vacation.
He and his coach Norman Wilson will be travelling back to Sweden for another six-week intensive training camp in March. He will then need more intense training prior to the Commonwealth Games in July.
The association also hopes to host further boxing events later in the summer to showcase more of Cayman’s talented national team. It hopes to bring a host of Caribbean countries in for an event in August, as well as building the youth national team by outreach training programs in districts such as Bodden Town.
The association recently lost its president, Terence Spencer, but is keen to demonstrate that it is pushing on regardless, under the leadership of acting president Ann-Marie Byrd.
The boxing association thanked the Ministry of Health, Sports, Youth and Culture, the Cayman Islands Olympic Committee and Silverlight for their continuing supports, as well as Island Air, Elite Marble and Granite, and Comfort Suites, which made the Island Air Luxury party demonstrations possible.
The association is always looking for more talented boxers to add to its program and is especially keen to hear from women boxers. Anyone interested should come out to the boxing gym at the Truman Bodden Sports Complex or the Bodden Town headquarters weekday evenings at the Civic Centre.