Some of Cayman’s best boxers are using an overseas training camp to sharpen their skills.
The Cayman Islands Boxing Association sent four fighters to London on Monday for a two-month camp that will prime them for the Caribbean Championships in St. Lucia in December.
The fighters – Dariel Ebanks, Hopkin Ebanks, Alexander Smith and Brandy Barnes – will train with coach Ryan Barrett in London in an effort to improve their skills and to broaden their horizons. The training camp is sponsored by Elite Marble and Granite, and the fighters say they can’t wait to get in the ring.
Dariel Ebanks, a 28-year-old middleweight, said he went to London once before for a training camp, but this time, he’ll be setting the example for his younger peers while rounding out his own game.
“You’re in a big place. You’ve got a lot of things to do,” he said. “But you’ve got to keep focus. You’ve got to keep your mind in the game. Basically, what we do is just take one rest day on Sundays. We go out, we do sightseeing and stuff like that just to take our minds off it. But besides that we’re training 24/7.”
Dariel Ebanks, who usually fights at light heavyweight, is trying to cut weight and establish himself in a lighter class. He said that being in London can be an isolating experience and that he will think about his family while he’s away. But when he’s in the ring, he’s really only thinking about taking care of business.
“We train the right way,” he said of moving down to middleweight. “There’s nothing really wrong with it. I’ll just be stronger, but they’ll be pretty fast. I’ve got a little bit of speed myself, so I’ll be all right.”
Alexander Smith, the youngest fighter in the group, is an 18-year-old junior lightweight who has been boxing for about four years. Smith loves the hard work and dedication required to compete at the higher levels, and he said this trip will be the longest he’s ever been away from his family.
“I hope to gain more experience, get tougher and get more fights down there so I can go to St. Lucia and get a gold medal,” he said.
Hopkin Ebanks, a 19-year-old welterweight, went to London once before for a training camp. He has been fighting for six years, and his favorite boxers are Floyd Mayweather and Guillermo Rigondeaux, but he doesn’t necessarily want to train to fight like them.
“I look at how they’ve been achieving and how they’ve done it,” Ebanks said of the inspiration he takes from his boxing role models. “Hopefully, one day I can be as big as them or even bigger.”
He said that while there are limitless distractions in London, he almost feels like crossing the Atlantic Ocean gives him a better opportunity to concentrate than he would have at home.
“To be honest, when I’m in Cayman, my hometown, I almost feel like there’s more distractions than when I’m out of town,” he said. “When I’m out of town, I’m so focused. But everybody at home supports me so much. It just makes me focus more on what I’m doing.”
Brandy Barnes, the lone woman in the group, has been boxing for about a year. She thinks the two-month training camp will give her a chance to immerse herself in the sport she loves. The 21-year-old light flyweight, like Hopkin Ebanks, said she will have a better chance at concentrating far away from home.
“It will keep me focused. It will help me tune in,” she said. “I won’t have anything to worry about except boxing. I won’t be distracted by my friends or regular stuff at home.”
Barnes said she looks up to boxing champion Katie Taylor, in addition to Mayweather and Ukranian up-and-coming champion Vasyl Lomachenko. Barnes said it can be a tougher road to be a woman in boxing, but she said she loves the game for the same reason as her male counterparts.
“It depends on the girl,” she said of boxing appealing to women. “Aggression is natural for girls too. What’s tough about it is that there’s a limited amount of females boxing. It’s harder to find fighters within your weight division to fight against, so most of the time you’re sparring against guys instead.”
Coach Barrett has organized international sparring and competition for the young boxers while they are in London. They also will undertake medicals, physiotherapy and a “military fitness” training program, according to the boxing association’s president Leyla Jackson.
They are scheduled to return to Cayman on Nov. 28 “to re-group with the rest of the team to train together and swap knowledge before leaving for the Caribbean Championships the following week,” Ms. Jackson said in a press release.
Other boxers on the Cayman team who were unable to travel to London will continue to participate in training on island. Coach Barrett will return to Cayman for two weeks to coincide with a visit from international boxing expert James Beckles, from mid-October to early November, Ms. Jackson said.
“Mr. Beckles will work with our coaches Nayon Anglin, Ryan Barrett, Rogerio Pitta and Tristan Wesenhagan, as well as with association members, sponsors and key stakeholders, to structure both our national team training and our after-school and community outreach to help us modernize and upgrade the programs.
“It is also our intention to bring in international coaching and sparring for national team athletes who are remaining on island, during November, and this is in the process of being finalized,” she said.