Plans for a Bodden Town boxing gym, announced amid significant publicity during the visit of boxing legend Manny Pacquiao last year, have been quietly shelved.
The Filipino eight-division world champion, one of the greats of the sport, visited the Cayman Islands in January 2017 to host a fight night at the Truman Bodden Sports Complex.
During that trip, in the run up to the 2017 general election, he joined politicians, including then sports minister Osbourne Bodden and Premier Alden McLaughlin, for what was described as a “groundbreaking ceremony” for the project. Officials wielded golden shovels for a photo opportunity and indicated the gym would likely be open by early 2018.
Mr. Bodden, who was one of the primary drivers of the plan, lost his seat during the May election and little has been heard on the project since then.
In response to questions from the Compass, government acknowledged that the gym was no longer part of its current plans.
Christen Suckoo, chief officer in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, said, “Unfortunately, the project was not progressed beyond the design stage due to a combination of factors.”
He said government had undertaken a heavy capital works program and other projects had to be prioritized due to demand for project management personnel. He added that the funds secured during the design phase of the project were deemed insufficient to cover all necessary costs.
During the 2018-2019 budget process, he said, the ministry also faced issues securing funds for a number of capital works projects.
“Decisions were made to prioritize projects, and while the boxing gym project is still desired, it could not be prioritized over more critical projects at this time, such as the new John Gray High School project and capital works needed in preparation for next year’s CARIFTA meet that is being hosted in the Cayman Islands,” he said.
SDKA International, the multinational company that helped bring Mr. Pacquiao to the Cayman Islands, had indicated that it would provide equipment, including a boxing ring for the facility.
Matthew Leslie, who was the promoter of that event, said he believed the company’s offer of assistance would still stand if the project were revived.
A large crowd turned out for the groundbreaking event on the gym to hear Mr. Pacquiao endorse the planned project.
“I myself come from humble beginnings, and it was because of sports facilities like this I was able to meet the people who saw my potential, took me under their wing and provided the best facilities for me to train and to be inspired and motivated to pursue my dream of being a world champion,” he said at the time.