Ebanks faces world's best; ranking reaches No. 52

Cayman’s finest amateur boxer, Tafari Ebanks, is in Qatar with his coach Norman Wilson to compete in the world championships, which start in Doha on Monday. 

Bantamweight Ebanks was picked from a wild card selection in the tournament that finishes on Oct. 15. 

This is a tremendous opportunity for the 21-year-old stylist to test himself against the best in the 56kg division leading up to the Rio Olympics in 2016. 

Ebanks is in great shape after spending six weeks in training camp in Miami leading up to the Continental Games in Venezuela in August. He won his first fight there but lost closely in the second qualifier. 

Since his return to Cayman, he has been in full training for the next Cayman event, the Elite Marble & Granite Saturday Night Fight on Oct. 17, but has had to pull out. 

Ebanks was going to top the bill against a fighter from the Caribbean, but because of his Qatar trip will have to miss this one. 

Ann-Marie Byrd, president of the Cayman Islands Boxing Association, said, “This has been the most successful year of boxing for the association. Tafari competed in three world-class Games and his cousin, Hopkin Ebanks, competed in the Commonwealth Youth Championships in Samoa in September.” 

In addition, she said local boxers competed among each other in April and June “with a tremendous display of talent and resilience.” 

Both local shows were a success for the boxing association, as funds raised went to cover the training camp expenses for Tafari and Hopkin, 17, leading up to their championship tournaments. 

“This has been the year of recognition for Tafari,” said Byrd. “Whilst he might not gave won a gold medal, his participation in the series of championships brought a tremendous recognition of his ability and skills to the Amateur International Boxing Association Council.” 

He is now ranked 52 in the world. “This will give him greater motivation to climb to the highest rank. The sky is the limit for Tafari.” 

Byrd feels the Cayman Islands Boxing Association is now globally recognized, and the AIBA is doing its best to promote its program. In addition to Wilson and long-term coach Nayon “Donie” Anglin, there is another coach, Rogerio Pitta, who successfully passed an AIBA Star 1 Training Course in September in Barbados. 

“Great things are happening in boxing in the Cayman Islands,” said Byrd. “The current board has been working diligently and [tirelessly] to making this program a success.” 

There are 60 kids registered in the after-school program, and eight have shown excellent skills and potential to further advance within the sport, she added. 

Many of them will show their talent on the Elite Marble & Granite show at the Lions Center. 

“On the card the audience will have an opportunity to see the Caymanian youth at their best whilst competing against each other,” said Byrd. 

“We will also have visiting teams from Trinidad and the Bahamas, who are the main fighters on the card, with one of their contenders fighting Hopkin.” 

She hopes the achievements and advancement of the program this year will increase support for boxing and attract sponsors willing to help the kids to excel. It will also boost sports tourism revenue, she added. 

Leyla Jackson, boxing association vice president, said, “Tafari lost his fight in the qualifiers by a small margin and was contacted by AIBA as a wild card entry to the world championships, so he must have impressed them and be on their radar, which is great news. I can’t wait to see how he gets on there.” 

She added that his world ranking “is amazing news and we are really proud and honored to see him recognized in the list with some of the best amateur bantamweights in the world.” 

Jackson said, “Tafari is putting Cayman on the map for boxing.” 

Planning for the Oct. 17 event is going well, Jackson said. “I’m really looking forward to the show. VIP is now sold out. Although Tafari, sadly, won’t be able to be on the card, Hopkin has really developed this year and I’m really looking forward to seeing his new skills in action. Plus, we have a surprise local fight on the cards which is very exciting.” 

Tickets for the Oct. 17 show are on sale at all Jacques Scott outlets or by calling 926-0749. 

Tafari Ebanks is at the world championships in Qatar. – PHOTOS: RON SHILLINGFORD
Tafari Ebanks is at the world championships in Qatar. – PHOTOS: RON SHILLINGFORD

Hopkin Ebanks will top the bill on Oct. 17.

Hopkin Ebanks will top the bill on Oct. 17.

Ann-Marie Byrd

Ann-Marie Byrd